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Report: Heat 'expected to emerge' as suitor for James Harden
Harden, soon-to-be-34, is entering the final year of a two-year deal.
James Harden opted into his $35.6 million player option Thursday, but it came with a caveat: He and the Philadelphia 76ers were going to look for a future trade partner to trade the former MVP and three-time scoring champ.
According to NBA insider Shams Charania, the Miami Heat are expected to be involved in the mix, along with the Los Angeles Clippers. NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski also listed the New York Knicks as a possible suitor.
“The Clippers and Heat are expected to emerge in this process for (James) Harden, I’m told,” Charania said. “Teams across the league understand a player like Harden will likely reach a preferred destination.”
It’s unclear which destinations Harden favors most, but he has been linked to Miami before. It pursued Harden ahead of the 2020-21 season when he was apart of the Houston Rockets, but the Heat was reluctant to part with the majority of their assets while also not possessing enough draft capital to gain any traction.
Now, they must navigate the Daryl Morey waters again, even though a trade with a conference rival doesn’t appear all that likely.
Harden averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists, shooting 44.1 percent from the floor, 38.5 percent from 3-point range and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line in 58 games last season. The soon-to-be 34-year-old is entering the final year of a two-year, $68.6 million deal he signed with the Sixers last offseason.
As Spotrac’s Keith Smith noted, any team would have to include a minimum of about $26.6 million in salary to acquire Harden before the new league year on July 1; any team after must get to about $32.1 million in lieu of the new CBA, making trade gymnastics a little tougher.
Harden has been at the forefront of multiple playoff flameouts, has lost explosiveness and doesn’t generate as much rim pressure to force the issue, but can still be a quality contributor on the good team.
The Heat seems to have all of their eggs plus any additional candy in the basket for Damian Lillard; is this a smoke screen to force Lillard’s hand, or will the Heat have genuine interest if any switch has been remotely flipped with Portland’s All-NBA guard?
Only time will tell.