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The 76ers, Mavericks and Grizzlies are among the top prospects if an unhappy Harden leaves Brooklyn, says MaximBet.



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Memo to Nets fans…you now have two favorite NBA teams: The one in Brooklyn, and whichever other one is playing the Washington Wizards.

Why that second one?

Because there remains a chance that Bradley Beal will finally pronounce himself fed up with the years and years of failure and frustration in Washington and will ask to be released from torture, perhaps prior to the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline. 

The Wizards blew a 35-point lead in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, where they were 5-point NBA odds favorites at MaximBet, and that represented their fourth consecutive defeat. After the game, Beal started asking the type of rhetorical questions that Philadelphia GM Daryl Morey has been waiting for.

“What are we trying to achieve, honestly?” Beal said. “What kind of a team are we trying to be? I think that’s my biggest question to all of us as a unit.”

“I’m very well aware of how we’re playing and how other teams are playing and what my interests are,” Beal said. “And obviously I’m a big factor into that, too, in producing and playing well and performing. But I want to win. And we all know that. It’s just a matter of us doing it.”

But if the Wizards as presently constituted are simply not good enough to compete for a title, we must assume that it is only a matter of time before Beal or his agent approaches Wizards ownership/management and drops the bomb: a trade request. 

If that happens, odds are that Beal goes to the Sixers for Ben Simmons, which would thereby remove one possible sign-and-trade destination for Harden over the summer if he decides he no longer wants to be in Kings County.

“Beal is still No. 1 on the Sixers’ list,” one Eastern Conference executive told Maxim. “And as far as the Harden thing goes, what everybody’s missing is that Philly could still get Harden without doing a straight up deal with Brooklyn. The Sixers just would need to go and get the guys that Brooklyn wants.”

Of course, none of this was supposed to be discussed this season because Brooklyn entered the season (and remains) the prohibitive favorite to come out of the East, according to the NBA futures odds at MaximBet.

But rumors have been circulating and getting stronger that Harden is dissatisfied with a) Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated; b) the cost of living in the Big Apple with its country-high income taxes; and c) the state of the Nets on the court, where the rotations that coach Steve Nash uses change on an almost game-to-game basis depending on who is hot and who is not.

Harden tried throwing cold water on the discussion, to little avail.

“I don’t know about any reports,” Harden said after Bleacher Report published an article saying that the Bearded One’s frustrations with Brooklyn are mounting.

“Of course I’m frustrated because we’re not healthy, there’s a lot of inconsistencies for whatever reason: Injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, it’s frustrating. I think everyone in this organization is frustrated because we’re better than what our record is we should be on the way up. That’s all it is.”

Frustrations have a way of boiling over, and that is what the Nets have to be wary about here at the relative midpoint of the season as sports fans devote most of their attention to staying warm and making it to this Sunday when the NFL Playoffs resume.

It is three long months until the NBA playoffs begin, and since the trade deadline has still not arrived and nobody has any idea yet exactly what the 10 or so contending teams will look like heading into the postseason.

And so, we find ourselves in an 82-game slog of a regular season in which every hiccup for the Nets and/or Lakers leads to a league-wide GI infection for the rest of the Association, especially for players on teams who would welcome the addition of a talent like Harden if he were to become available.

Remember, the Nets were enthusiastic and optimistic at the start of training camp that they would have their entire team vaccinated prior to Opening Night, and that Harden and Irving would sign long-term extensions that would keep them in Brooklyn for another four years, allowing for an accumulation of championship rings rather than just a single title.

But Irving never signed and neither did Harden, who becomes eligible this summer for a record $270 million contract if his current one expires. The Nets have shown themselves to be more than willing to extend Harden for three years for $161.1 million, and the lack of activity on that front has got to be a concern to fans of the Nets.

“KD wants to win now. He signed his extension,” the Eastern Conference exec said.

So if Harden decides to try his luck elsewhere, where might that be? 

That is where it gets complicated, but we make the complicated fairly simple. And one thing that everyone can wrap their heads around is money, specifically how much of it a wage-earner gets to keep and how much he must fork over to federal, state and municipal authorities.

In Florida and Texas, there are no state or local income taxes, and athletes playing in those states are taking home roughly 20 percent more money than their colleagues in the high-tax states of New York and California.

If Harden wanted to go to Florida and win right away, only one team could accommodate him: The Miami Heat. But Miami is already committed to $131 million in player salaries for next season, which means they could only acquire Harden in a trade. Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson would work cap-side if that was the best the Nets could do.

In Texas, the only team that is currently contending or has a chance to contend in the next four years is the Dallas Mavericks, and Harden does many of the same things that Luka Doncic already does. So would that even work?

Naysayers would say no because Doncic needs the ball in his hands to be the perfect mix of scorer and facilitator. But the same things were often said about Irving, who moved off the ball when playing with Harden and did just fine without having to be a ball distributor.

The Mavs are also capped out for next season in large part because Doncic’s supermax extension kicks in, but if Dallas and Brooklyn really wanted to do a deal, it could get done. Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell works cap-wise and would give the Nets a great deal of size on an already undersized roster that is about to get even smaller when Paul Millsap’s trade request is granted.

But those are only two of the possibilities, and when you think about it Harden can pretty much pick his preferred destination and see if Brooklyn will facilitate it … as long as he is prepared to ditch if it does not happen, which would mean signing with a team that has max cap room or something close to it.

Right now, that is a list that is limited to Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Orlando, San Antonio, Memphis and Oklahoma City. 

The Thunder are likely not an option (they had their chance with Harden and blew it), but every other one of the aforementioned teams (with the exception of the Magic and Spurs) are theoretically one great player away from being the next prohibitive favorite. 

Cleveland would have to jettison its backcourt pairing of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton/Ricky Rubio, but that has already happened this season because of knee injuries suffered by Sexton and Rubio.

The Bulls have an eclectic mix of young and old that Harden could fit in with seamlessly. The Pistons are a lot further away but have one of the top young talents in the league in Cade Cunningham playing alongside an established winner and veteran big man, Jerami Grant.

Memphis is sneaky good in the West and would have to find a way to get Harden and Ja Morant to feed off each other, which is not impossible.

Most importantly, of course, Harden would have to leave Brooklyn, which has not happened and may not ever happen.

“I just heard about these reports,” Nets coach Steve Nash said, “I haven’t spoken to him about any of these things. I’m not sure what to believe.”

Truthfully, though, Nash knows to believe what he hears. And until he hears the words “I want to be traded” come out of James Harden’s mouth, all he and the rest of the Nets can do is sit tight, hope for the best and pray that all three of their superstars are equal participants in whatever comes their way.

But time is running short in Brooklyn, a lot shorter than everyone expected when the operative thought was that Durant, Harden and Irving would spend a half-decade together in the County of Kings. It still might happen, but it is certainly not the mortal lock it once seemed. And that is one of the reasons why the NBA keeps us transfixed: If it is not interesting today, it very well might be tomorrow.

Here are MaximBet’s complete odds for James Harden’s next team, which you can wager on here.

James Harden Next Team Odds

  • Philadelphia 76ers +200
  • Dallas Mavericks +300
  • Memphis Grizzlies +400
  • Chicago Bulls +400
  • Cleveland Cavaliers +500
  • Detroit Pistons +700
  • Miami Heat +1000
  • Los Angeles Lakers +1200

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