Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Heat not expected to pursue James Harden after missing out on Damian Lillard, per report

The Miami Heat were the favorites to land Damian Lillard for most of the offseason, but now that the Portland Trail Blazers have traded their superstar point guard to the Milwaukee Bucks, Pat Riley and the rest of his front office will have to pick up the pieces and come up with a new plan with training camp mere days away. For the time being, that plan is not likely to include the other star guard that has spent the offseason in trade rumors, as The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang report that the Heat are not likely to pursue Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden after missing out on Lillard.

Like Lillard, Harden spent the offseason pushing to be dealt to a specific destination: the Los Angeles Clippers. But like the Heat, the Clippers have thus far refused to make a suitable offer for Harden, and so the 76ers have not budged. Unlike Lillard, however, Harden has thus far failed to generate much of a trade market outside of the Clippers. In fact, the Lillard trade could have complicated matters for him considerably, as former Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is now available as a member of the Trail Blazers. Numerous teams appear to be interested in swiping the six-time All-Defense choice, and the Heat, according to some reports, are among them. Interest in Harden, however, remains tepid.

Unlike Holiday, Harden is not an elite defender. He has a poor track record when it comes to conditioning, which is a major no-no for the Heat, and he is now on his third trade request since his 2020 push to escape Houston. On paper, Miami’s disinterest makes sense. He is not the sort of low-maintenance, fitness-obsessed star that typically thrives with the Heat.

But Miami still needs shot creation, and the Heat lost playoff starters Gabe Vincent and Max Strus to free agency. They have very little time to replace them, and despite his flaws, Harden remains a very valuable offensive player. If the Heat don’t pursue him, someone eventually will.

As for Miami? They do have other possible options on the trade front aside from Harden. Holiday is a possibility, though it is unclear how eager the Blazers are to work with the Heat after consistently rebuffing their offers for Lillard. There are other guards that could hit the trade market this season as well, with Chicago’s pair of All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine entering the rumor mill themselves this offseason.

The Heat have an incredibly strong roster-building track record. Their instincts are usually correct. If they aren’t interested in Harden, they’ll likely find another way to compete with the new-look Bucks and the rest of the Eastern Conference at some point between now and next spring. Just don’t expect their eventual solution to include Harden.

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