The Celtics had seemingly been on the periphery of all the James Harden trade talk, until this weekend when a rumor out of Houston pegged them as one of the “favorites” to land the Rockets star with a package centered around Jaylen Brown.
On The Greg Hill Show Tuesday morning, Gary Tanguay and Jermaine Wiggins both advocated for Danny Ainge to pull the trigger on such a trade, arguing that Harden is the kind of star the Celtics need to put alongside Jayson Tatum in order to get over the hump and truly compete for an NBA championship.
They brought in Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix to shed some light on the rumors, whether a Harden trade is actually a possibility, and whether the Celtics would seriously consider doing it.
“Can it happen? Of course,” Mannix said. “As Houston has canvassed the league and addressed what they’re looking for in a deal, the Celtics check a lot of those boxes. They’re looking for an All-Star, kind of tent pole player. That would be Jaylen Brown. They’re looking for young pieces. The Celtics can offer Marcus Smart and some package of Romeo Langford and other pieces there. They’re looking for draft capital. The Celtics don’t have the cache of picks they once did, but they still own all their picks moving forward, so they can make a substantive move there.”
Mannix pointed out that while such a trade might make sense for the Rockets, Ainge and the Celtics might be hesitant to trade the long-term potential of the 24-year-old Brown and other pieces for a shorter window with the 31-year-old Harden.
“One of the factors you have to consider here is, how long are you going to get peak James Harden?,” Mannix said. “Do you want to sacrifice what could be a six, seven, eight-year title window? Jaylen Brown is only going to get better. Jayson Tatum, I believe, is going to finish in the top five in the MVP race this year. I really believe he’s going to have that type of season. Smart is Smart. You have an opportunity with this group and nibbling around the edges with some of the rotation players to get to where you want to be.
“In the short term, yes, 100 percent Harden makes you better. But Harden’s 31 years old, and nobody’s really sure how his game is going to age. He’s logged as many miles as anybody over the last three or four years. Will he be able to play at this level into his mid-30s? And if he can’t, did you just throw away a chance to compete for championships into the next decade for a two or three-year window?”
As far as when a Harden trade might actually get done, Mannix said he expects talks will drag into the season and potentially up to the March trade deadline. He also said that despite what other reports might say, he believes the 76ers are still the team that could beat out all other suitors if they decide they’re willing to trade Ben Simmons.
“It’s still too early in this process to kind of handicap favorites,” Mannix said. “I mean, there’s widespread belief amongst teams that I’ve talked to that if Philadelphia gets serious with a Ben Simmons offer, that’s going to trump all other offers. Simmons is a bona fide franchise player. He’s under contract through 2025. It makes the most sense for the Houston Rockets. Now, I don’t believe the Sixers are willing to pull the trigger on a deal like that just yet, but if you’re Houston, you have to wait and see if that becomes realistic. Your timeline isn’t the start of the season, it’s probably the trade deadline in early March. So I think we’ve got a long way to go before this situation is resolved.”