Fact or Bull: Can Chicago Land James Harden in a Blockbuster Trade?

LaVine and James Harden

Getty Could the Chicago Bulls trade Zach LaVine for James Harden?

As the 2020-21 season begins to unroll, no situation is quite as polarizing as James Harden’s current relationship with the Houston Rockets.

Harden, who has been catered to in his time in Houston, has assumed control over his destiny with the Rockets. Trying to force his way into a trade with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden has since expanded his list to a “contender.”

But as the relationship continues to grow more bitter, non-contender trade rumors have emerged, with the Chicago Bulls being one possible destination.

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Trading for Harden Presents the Opportunity for the New Front Office to Clean House

For Harden to land with the Rockets, a complete transformation of the Bulls roster would have to ensue. Franchise Sports recently wrote up a trade possibility between Houston and Chicago that could fetch Harden for three players.

Here’s what Sam Cox wrote:

The big salaries of Otto Porter, Zach LaVine and Thaddeus Young make it easy to construct a deal. Houston would likely want LaVine plus stuff here (and LaVine becomes expendable if you’ve got Harden).

Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen have seen their stock fall. Coby White is a desirable asset. Trying to justify this deal depends on how many young players Chicago would have to give up.

If it’s two of White, Carter, Markkanen and Patrick Williams in the trade with LaVine, there are still sufficient pieces on the roster to put a competitive team around Harden.

Harden, White, Porter, Williams and Carter is a strong five. It’s not winning it all in 2021, but it elevates the Bulls back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. That could be a very good team in a year or two.

Why Harden for LaVine Won’t Work With Billy Donovan

James HardenJames Harden

GettyHarden’s lack of involvement when the ball is not in his hands would not work with new Bulls coach Billy Donovan.

While Cox’s trade scenario adds up on paper and maybe the Bulls could make it to the postseason with the starting lineup of Harden, White, Porter, Williams and Carter, there are likely bound for a first-round exit.

Chicago coach Billy Donovan is in the midst of installing a motion offense and team defense mentality. Harden has shown to not be interested in playing offense when the ball is not in his hands, often barely stepping over half court while Chris Paul facilitated last season. Paul and Russell Westbrook left Houston as a result of the ongoing tension with Harden to be a two-way player.

The Rockets have kept a “casual culture” with Harden, allowing the star player to come and go as he pleases, which won’t fly with the Bulls. A member of the Rockets coaching staff told ESPN that “if they have multiple days off, everybody knows: James is going to fly somewhere else and party. But he’s going to come back and have a 50-point triple-double, so they’re OK with it.”

Donovan has urged LaVine to become more involved as a team defender and helping his teammates on the slide and a 1-for-1 trade between LaVine and Harden may not translate to the same effort on the defensive end.

While Harden does present a superstar player Chicago would like to vie for, their best options could lie in 2021 free agency with Chris Paul, Victor Olapdipo, Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry available to bolster the Bulls backcourt.

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