I know what you’re thinking right now. Probably lots of words that I can’t type here, amongst other sayings like “you crazy?!?” or ”get outta here.” Now listen, I never actually thought about trading James Harden at all until just yesterday when this article was brought to my attention on my Twitter timeline. Ethan Sherwood Strauss of TrueHoop (ESPN) was asked about the biggest surprise in 2014, and responded saying,
The Rockets will trade James Harden. He’s bad at defense and they care about things others don’t seek to quantify. I could see Houston trading Harden for some depth and high draft picks.
BOOM! There it is. Something I never even though to ponder until a few minutes after seeing it.
I have had some time to think about it since then, and I have come to a conclusion. If Daryl Morey can swing together a deal that HE believes is worthwhile, then I’d go with it. However, I don’t think it’s possible to get the right value for Harden and that’s why I’m against trading him this season.
When you talk about trading Harden, you have to realize who he is. Harden is just 24-years old, a top-5 player in the NBA, and someone that could drop 35+ points on any given night. Those guys don’t just grow on trees. He was the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 draft, and immediately became a part of the “big three” in Oklahoma City.
With the Thunder, Harden was the 6th man of the year, but eventually became “too good” and the Thunder were forced to make a decision. Daryl Morey was pesky enough earlier in the season and got the call about Harden’s availability and jumped all over it, stealing Harden from the Thunder for a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses.
With the Rockets, Harden has blossomed into one of the NBA’s best players. In the 2012-2013 season, Harden averaged 25.9 ppg, 5.8 apg, and 4.9 rpg in over 38 minutes a game. His uncanny ability to eurostep through the lane and draw a foul has frustrated many defenders, and he finished last season as the leader in free throws attempted.
There are so many other categories you could find Harden sitting on top of. If you look at win shares (explained here), Harden finished with 12.8 win shares, good for fourth in the entire NBA. The only better players were LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul, which most would agree are better players than Harden.
This season, Harden’s numbers have dipped ever so slightly, though injuries could be to blame for some struggles. Most people’s beef with Harden is his defense. I get that, I really do. He’s horrendous, and often doesn’t look like he tries. He knows it, his teammates know it, everyone knows it. Why doesn’t he change? I don’t know, but he really needs too.
But is that a reason to trade one of the best offensive players in the NBA? Here’s the difference between offense and defense. While I agree defense is extremely important, it still plays second fiddle to offense. For example, if you take a player who you think is one of the best defensive players in the game but can’t play ANY offense, like maybe Ryan Bowen, how much more will he help your team than an all offense, ZERO defense guy? We aren’t talking Kevin Martin v.s. Ryan Bowen here, we’re talking about a top 5 NBA offensive player (Harden), who is a solid rebounder and will pass as well, v.s. Ryan Bowen.
Tony Allen or Bruce Bowen are another example of great defensive players who provide little on offense. Bowen averaged over 6 ppg over his career, but was more well-known for his elite defense. Tony Allen averages over 8 ppg in his career and is also known for his elite defense. Harden and Allen have battled it out before, and even though Allen is one of the best defenders in the NBA, Harden has averaged 22.6 ppg in 5 games in a Rockets uniform against Allen. Yes, Allen held Harden to just 25 of 73 shooting (34%), but Harden was still able to get to the free throw line, hitting 52 free throws in those five games. He will find ways to score because that’s what elite offensive players do.
The Tony Allens, Bruce Bowens, or the Ryan Bowen’s of the world are important, I understand that. However, I’d much rather have a James Harden type player over the best defensive player in the game. To me, it’s a lot easier for a team to pick up someone’s defensive mishaps than for a team to replace scoring. More often than not, good scorers are going to have their way with good defenders, that’s just the way it is. Just ask Shane Battier about his games against Kobe Bryant. That’s basketball for you.
James Harden is just too dominant offensively and at such a young age to just trade away. Even if you wanted to trade him, there is likely no deal out there that Daryl Morey would entertain. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and now Paul George are the only players I’d consider trading Harden for. Unless a team is willing to trade top picks and/or multiple young players (Klay Thompson/Harrison Barnes?) for Harden, Morey will likely not even answer his phone.
At the end of the day if Morey wants to deal Harden then I’m all for it. I trust the guy. Look at his track record and tell me I shouldn’t. However, I just don’t think there’s any way to get fair value for a top-5 NBA player who hasn’t even reached his prime yet. We finally got one superstar and now a second. Let’s give them a chance to play!
Check back in a few days when one of our writers argues why the Rockets SHOULD trade away James Harden.
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