Grade the Trade: Bulls finally land superstar in mock swap with 76ers

Zach LaVine, James Harden, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Zach LaVine, James Harden, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Zach LaVine, James Harden, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors
Zach LaVine, James Harden, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Would the 76ers accept this trade?

In an ideal world, the 76ers would likely prefer to just not move Harden at all. In a vacuum, the tandem of Embiid and Harden should be as dangerous as they come, but it just hasn’t come to fruition yet. Harden is turning 34 years old soon and is a likely candidate to bolt in free agency in a year anyways, so Philadelphia may have to entertain offers even if they don’t want to.

This issue is only exacerbated by Harden’s veiled threats of unmotivated play and falling out of shape again (and eating as many burgers as he can hold, apparently). The fact remains, however, that the Clippers offer simply isn’t all that attractive. Receiving an expiring All-Star forward and All-Defensive guard is much better than anything LA has to offer.

If the 76ers truly believe Tyrese Maxey has the potential to become a bonafide star player, I can think of a great many starting fives that would be worse than a Caruso-Maxey-DeRozan-Harris-Embiid lineup. They might be hesitant to jump at this deal, but if Harden forces their hand, the 76ers would gladly accept this over the Clippers’ package.

Would the Bulls accept this trade?

On paper, the Bulls would immediately become a much-improved team by making this deal. Harden would immediately replace DeRozan’s offensive impact, while also being a much better defender than DeMar has ever been. Barring any further signings (like say, signing Christian Wood to play power forward?), LaVine would likely slide down to small forward while Harden runs the point. From there, Coby White, Jevon Carter, and Ayo Dosunmu could compete for the starting shooting guard role while filling the rest of the backcourt depth nicely.

House Jr., Dalen Terry, and Julian Phillips would compete to be the primary reserve behind LaVine, while Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic, Torrey Craig, and Andre Drummond would fill in the frontcourt rotation. As a whole, this would be a much more well-rounded and dangerous team, and would still have an open space to sign another quality free agent.

Unfortunately, basketball isn’t played on paper. There’s no guarantee Harden would be happy with this move, and may just phone it in and wait until free agency next summer if he doesn’t believe the Bulls are true contenders. This comes in stark comparison to DeRozan, who has been an exemplary leader and has tried his hardest to lift the young core up. Harden may be the better player, but DeRozan has been considerably more impactful off the court.

Either way, the Bulls are unlikely to go all the way and win a championship this upcoming season regardless of whether or not they make this trade. In that case, keeping a star who may actually re-sign like DeRozan around seems like the much better route to take for now.

Grade: C-

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