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Report: Rockets to hold out James Harden while they seek trade for All-Star [UPDATE]

The Rockets are speeding things up on the Harden trade front with Brooklyn and Philly being the two top candidates.

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James Harden of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 12, 2021 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE: Jan. 13 — The Brooklyn Nets are prepared to offer ALL of their future first-round picks and three pick swaps in exchange for Harden, The Athletic reported Wednesday. The Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly the two teams with the best chance at landing Harden. While it would create a super team of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets would have almost no future assets to leverage in any type of deal. It puts a ton of pressure on the franchise to win now.

Adrian Wojnarowski is now confirming that Harden will be kept out of the lineup while the Rockets seek a trade for the All-Star.

Brooklyn would also need to send back rotation players to clear salary. It was rumored that such a deal involving Harden would be centered around Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, the two young, premier assets the Nets have. We’ll see what type of deal goes down but it’s expected to be a blockbuster and a half.

The Houston Rockets are considering holding All-Star G James Harden out of games until they can find a trade for him, Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN Wednesday morning. The Rockets are coming off a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, which dropped their record 3-6. Houston is now second-to-last in the Western Conference and don’t appear to be on course to make the playoffs or contend for a title. Harden has stated that he wants out of Houston to play for a contender. The Rockets could protect their asset by holding Harden out.

This has been an ongoing saga all offseason for the Rockets, who had an overhaul of the front office and coaching staff after another early playoff exit in 2020. Stephen Silas is coach and Daryl Morey is out as GM. Throughout the past couple of months, Harden has been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors among other teams. The Rockets have had talks with teams but have struggled to find a deal that makes sense. It’s difficult to move such a large contract and retain assets equal to arguably the best scorer in the NBA.

Harden is on pace to average his fewest amount of points in a season since his final year in Oklahoma City before the deal to Houston. That was back in 2012. Harden is averaging 24.8 points and 10.4 assists per game. His usage rate is way down, currently under 30 percent with John Wall and Christian Wood being added to the roster before the season. His assist rate is up but that’s likely because he’s ceding to other players. This could be a result of wanting out and not giving 100 percent each game.

If you drafted Harden in fantasy basketball, your only hope is he gets dealt at some point this season and turns things around. With that in mind, I don’t think Harden is a bad long-shot to win MVP at +4000 on DraftKings Sportsbook. If he’s dealt to a contender and takes off, leading said team to the playoffs and a top record, it will make his case pretty strong. No one player has really separated themselves in the MVP race and right now Joel Embiid is getting the most hype.