James Harden

The Houston Rockets are very ambitious about landing Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this summer. They’re trying to find a trade for Jeremy Lin to create cap space for one free agency signing, while landing the other player, whoever he maybe, via a sign and trade, using James Harden.

Whether or not Chris Broussard can be deemed trustworthy is a different matter, but it’s not that surprising to see the Rockets making these kind of moves, trying to swing for the fences. It began with their trade for James Harden in 2012 and carried on with the addition of Dwight Howard. It seems the plan was always going to be adding another max contract player, but with two of them suddenly becoming available the Rockets might give up on the player who seemed to be their centerpiece of the last two years and the future.

James Harden is a star, an All-Star and an excellent scorer. But he’s not a guy to build a championship team around. Not when he is the point guard when he shouldn’t be. Even if Kevin McHale gave the keys to the team to him, it’s quite clear that in the equation that includes having James, Anthony and Howard to Harden, someone and Howard, the first one seems preferable.

Carmelo vs The Mask

In his two seasons with the Rockets, finally becoming a starter, Harden is averaging 25.7 points per game with one of the highest usage ratings in the league. Whether or not giving him the opportunity to make all the decisions on the floor which only encourages the selfish part of his on-court personality was the right one doesn’t matter: In terms of individual numbers and the bottom line test of making the Rockets a playoff team again, Harden did a good job.

But when it comes to taking this team to a different level, a contender, maybe this postseason showed that Harden isn’t up for the challenge. He doesn’t learn from past mistakes and doesn’t make players around him better. He can get hot and become one of the more dangerous shooters in the league, but he doesn’t have a very high basketball IQ especially in clutch situations. Simply shooting with a hand in your face doesn’t really make you a genius, even if the baskets drop.

The Rockets being a lucrative landing spot for James and especially Anthony isn’t in any doubt. However, whether one of the two teams will be willing to give up a future hall of fame player for Harden, who still isn’t (and might never be) at that level is a big question. Harden will be 25 this summer which means there’s plenty more basketball to see from him. LeBron James and Anthony are older, maybe even slightly past their peak. That falls into consideration as well.

The Jeremy Lin angle? Right now, for the Rockets, Jeremy Lin is just a stepping stone to get more cap space cleared. For a player who has always been used in the wrong way by a franchise that was initially very excited to sign him, it seems that anywhere will be better than playing under Kevin McHale.

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