Grade the Trade: Raptors land James Harden in shocking proposal

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers and OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers and OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images /
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Toronto Raptors
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers and Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors. Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images /

Would the Raptors say yes?

James Harden is the kind of player that draws a lot of “hate” from opposing fans. He’s an extremely talented player, but one who seems to prioritize himself over his teams at times. Add in a dollop of playoff failure (which sometimes replaces hate with respect), and many fans in Toronto likely don’t want to add Harden at any cost.

However, the reality is that the cost is incredibly low relative to how good he is. Trent is a valuable player, but the organization would probably have been acceptable to see him walk in free agency; he was coming off the bench down the stretch last season. Boucher is what he is, and Porter is dead money. The first-round pick matters the most, as they currently owe protected picks that would encumber them moving forward.

Adding Harden and retaining all three of their forwards maintains their high foundation. Re-sign Jakob Poeltl, and they have a potential starting lineup and a pick-and-roll partner for Harden. Would a team lining up to contend be enough to entice Fred VanVleet to stick around? An absolute bomber like Gradey Dick would fit right into the rotation as well.

There are downsides. Harden tends to make an offense look a lot like him, and with a rookie head coach, there will be some growing pains to feed all of the mouths. Yet Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby know what it takes to win; Harden hasn’t paired with high-level players who have won a championship on a real team (not sure what to call the Brooklyn experiment). The infrastructure in Toronto might be enough to make it work.

There are risks, but the cost is so low that the Raptors would be justified in taking a swing. It worked with Kawhi Leonard; could it work again with James Harden?

Next. 3 things the Raptors must do as soon as free agency starts. dark

Grade: B+