Nets shouldn’t trade for James Harden unless something goes extremely wrong

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News

To trade or not to trade? That remains the question.

James Harden trade rumors are still swirling about in Brooklyn. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on live TV that the Nets are among teams to have recent trade discussions with the Houston Rockets.

As tempting as they may be, those discussions should go no further.

The allure of a Harden trade is understandable. After all, I once believed it was a must for the Nets to pull off this deal. But the window for a successful Harden trade in Brooklyn has closed. Doing so now would be a Harden-esque three steps backward.

Why? It’s simple: The cost of doing business with Tilman Fertitta’s Rockets is entirely too high, and the setback before the come up could cost Brooklyn an entire season.

The Nets are still putting things together. Head coach Steve Nash has yet to implement a full system offensively, and the defense is still being pieced together day by day. What’s keeping this team on track is the work they’ve put in behind the scenes, as well as the chemistry they’ve built year-over-year with a roster largely the same as last season’s.

Need proof of that chemistry? Look at the bench. Every time a three goes up, so does everyone’s arms. These Nets are playing for each other already, and it’s not even a week into the regular season.

Houston’s asking price is also reminiscent of two infamous previous New York overpays: the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett deal that gutted years of Nets drafts, and the unnecessary Carmelo Anthony trade that cost the Knicks all of their depth.

The Rockets reportedly seek a star-level young player and a “treasure trove of draft assets” — and rightfully so — in any deal for their former MVP. A trade for Harden is going to cost the Nets what has made them so special so early.

Yes, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are as special a duo as exists in the NBA, but they are supported by one of the deepest rosters in the league, and that depth will be depleted in any deal with the Rockets.

It will likely take Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen just to start a conversation with the Rockets, as well as whatever draft picks Houston seeks. That still isn’t enough: Wojnarowski reports Houston is still seeking a third team to facilitate a Harden deal.

Nets head coach Steve Nash says he hasn’t had any communication with GM Sean Marks about a trade for Harden.

“We definitely work in close proximity. I haven’t any conversations or any alerts, so maybe that says it all,” Nash said before tipoff against the Boston Celtics on Christmas. “But we’re excited with the players we have, we’re looking forward every day trying to get better. For me it’s just been a blast, learning a lot and enjoying working with our guys. No one’s conferred with me about the possibilities.”

The Nets are an analytics-based franchise, and there just isn’t enough data at Marks and his staff’s disposal to make such a big judgment call so early.

A trade for Harden should be only made when it’s become clear this group as currently constructed cannot get the job done. So far, it looks like the opposite is true.

Boston is another team, according to ESPN, that has been engaged in Harden trade talks, and The Athletic reports Harden has expanded his list of destinations to include the Trail Blazers. The Philadelphia 76ers are another team that has been tied to a Harden trade, but that deal revolves around their willingness to move on from All-Star Ben Simmons.