Getty James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets warms up before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The James Harden-Boston Celtics chatter has certainly died down of late. Maybe that’s due to the earlier rumors being brushed aside as nothing more than typical offseason speculation. Or maybe it’s because Jaylen Brown’s ascension into full-blown NBA star actually makes the deal realistic.
Widely perceived as one of the league’s better two-way wings in basketball entering the season, Brown has flaunted rapid growth on the offensive end early in 2020-21. Suddenly, the 24-year-old has the look of a franchise cornerstone rather than a middle-to-high end second-fiddle.
This is exactly what Houston would theoretically be looking for were they willing to move off of Harden. Yet, as ESPN’s Tim Bontemps details, Brown’s dominant play has become a “massive complication” in swinging a deal.
“Brown is just 24 years old, though, a two-way player and well on his way to being an All-Star for the first time,” Bontemps writes. “He has steadily grown his game over four-plus seasons in Boston and has taken on a larger offensive role in a big way this season. The pairing of Brown and Tatum can rival any wing duo – and perhaps any under-25 tandem in the entire league. And while the Celtics are not yet up to the same caliber of conference finals rosters they’ve enjoyed in recent years, their biggest weakness at this point — depth — is something that could be addressed without making such an earthshaking trade.”
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Hypothetical Harden-Brown Trade
While Bontemps questions the benefits of trading a rising star such as Brown (a sentiment likely shared with the majority of Celtics fans), that didn’t stop the insider from drawing up a potential deal. Spoiler alert, it’s a blockbuster.
Here’s the potential deal:
- Rockets Receive
- Jaylen Brown, G/F
- Kemba Walker, G
- Aaron Nesmith G/F
- Celtics’ 2021 & 2023 unprotected first-round picks
- Celtics Receive
- James Harden, G
- Eric Gordon, G
- P.J. Tucker, F
“Boston could put together a package leading with Brown, who is off to the best start of his career,” Bontemps claims. “He fits the profile of a young building-block-type star that the Rockets have required in any Harden trade. Expanding the return beyond Harden to include Tucker and Gordon would give the Celtics the depth they’ve been lacking in the early part of the season.”
Is Brown Too Valuable to Trade?
In all honesty, the Harden trade speculation isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. While the former MVP hasn’t come out publically to demand a trade, a 3-4 start for a Rockets team with title aspirations certainly isn’t going to help. This is why Bontemps’ speculation wasn’t limited to just Boston, but rather five potential suitors in total.
The Celtics are one of a handful of clubs to reportedly engage in a “courtesy call” with Houston in regards to a potential Harden trade. Were Boston to swing for the fences, it would be difficult to hate on a deal that would yield the NBA’s reigning three-time scoring champ. Yet, that’s not to say it wouldn’t sting.
Brown, who’s emerged as a bonafide leader and a fan favorite in Boston, is averaging 26.3 ppg this season, a mere 0.7 ppg behind Harden’s 27.0 ppg. His scoring prowess is also good enough to place him within the top-10 of scorers in basketball this season. Furthermore, of those top-10 scorers league-wide, Brown’s been the most efficient, owning a 53.9% field goal percentage.
In Harden’s case, he remains his brilliant self. To go along with his aforementioned 27.0 ppg, which ranks sixth in the NBA, he also paces the league in assists with 11.3 per game.
The imminent return of Kemba Walker to the hardwood will likely give Boston more clarity on whether they’d be willing to throw a wrinkle in their lineup moving forward. Yet, the thought of moving off a continuously improving 24-year-old and two-way stud could prove to do more harm than good in the long haul.