Following an underwhelming, yet expected outcome on draft night, new developments to the James Harden-Celtics rumors reach the surface further justifying Boston’s inaction.
Just a little over a month before the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, the 2020 Draft, along with just about everything with an initial set in stone date, was unconventially shifted to a late November date.
As expected, Danny Ainge and the Celtics were linked to various big-rumor trade discussions such as a potential Marcus Smart deal to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for last night’s second overall draft selection, evidently James Wiseman of Memphis. A very ambitious yet unlikely sweepstakes landing for Boston which never came into fruition. Something post the underachieving Celtics era of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Evan Turner, fans have become accustomed to as the social norm of the Celtics front office.
However, perhaps the inactivity for the NBA’s latest dissatisfied, James Harden, is simply Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens dodging a bullet? That seems to be the case according to league sources such as Steve Bulpett, formerly of the Boston Herald, who stated on Twitter that a “western source” informed outsiders that following the Celtics’ groundwork, looking into the former MVP, that they were indeed advised to keep distance from Harden.
Harden, 31, has spent the past eight seasons in a Houston Rockets uniform. Thats nearly a decade in which he’s managed to establish his place in the league, averaging 29.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 7.7 assists on 44.3%/36.2%/86.2% shooting within his Rockets tenure.
While at base value, yes, Harden is undoubtedly one of the most dominant sources of offense the NBA has to offer, we can’t fall victim to the statistics and neglect the burden that’s further added to the not so friendly narrative alongside Harden. Playoffs.
The Houston Rockets remain the most underachieving franchise within the Western Conference, making the whole falling short thing a seasonal tradition under Harden and his supporting staff which each year seems to introduce “the solution”, or the “final piece to the puzzle” of bringing a title to Houston. Last season it was Russell Westbrook, notoriously known league-wide as the modern-day stat padder. Another dissatisfied member who just after a single season in Houston, wants out. To nobody’s surprise.
Initially blaming a singular party for an organization’s lack of success can be a tricky debate to present at times. Not in this case. Not in regards to one James Harden. A pure powerhouse of offensive explosion that through the regular season, averaged both a career-high and league-leading 11.8 free throw attempts per game. That could lead to anywhere from 12 to even 24 points of offensive opportunity for both Harden and Houston. Yet it’s that same style of play, or in Harden’s case the disappearance of such, that’s limited both Harden’s legacy and Houston’s ceiling for the past half decade-plus.
In the 2019-20 regular season, Harden averaged 22.3 field goal attempts per game. An aggressive, foul-drawing style of play, often leading to Harden’s defenders playing right into his hand of overcommitment (depends on who you ask) and placing him right at the line where he aims to be 10+ times a night. Yet when the regular season clock runs up and the time to rise to the occasion reaches, Harden fails to do so. He attempted just 19 field attempts flat which led to 9.7 free throw attempts per game. Not to mention his declined free throw percentage as well of 84.5% last playoffs.
That same level of aggression isn’t seen when watching Harden come playoff time. He’s passive and at times looks both confused and unmotivated. When he isn’t able to draw defenders to overly commit, or better yet fails to win his plea to officials, Harden is almost brought to a rude awakening of one of his heavily reliant sources of offense through the first 82 games of the year.
There’s no doubt that Harden’s market has taken a toll. To begin, we’re witnessing an instance of a player who has made his dissatisfaction widely known. You can’t get too picky with your market at a garage sale when it’s well known to potential suitors that you’ve got an asset that needs to be taken off your hands. Regardless of the regular season accolades within Harden’s resume, you’re still taking a shot in the dark, especially from the perspective of Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics.
Just a season fresh off the Kyrie Irving breakup, Boston themselves managed to underachieve their way to an Eastern Conference exit at the hands of the fifth seed Miami Heat. Danny Ainge is in no position to take a flyer on a scratch ticket in hopes of a major win come playoff time. You’ve got a 22-year-old Jayson Tatum entering year four of his NBA career, still yet to sign his first major extension, evidently establishing his oath of allegiance to Boston. With that being said, there’s absolutely zero room for Danny Ainge to replicate an off-season such as last year’s. Round three against the Miami Heat was a picture-perfect testament to everything Boston failed to do prior to the season’s start.
All in all, there are just some instances where trader Danny is better-suited playing spectator to the rumor mill.