ESPN's NBA Trade Machine: Could James Harden land with the Bulls or Lakers?

ESPN's NBA Trade Machine: Could James Harden land with the Bulls or Lakers?

Here at Going for Gusto, every month or so I'll take a look at the NBA landscape and pick some trades I'd either like to see happen or think should happen. If you would like to submit a potential trade for the next NBA Trade Machine column, either comment below or post on the Going for Gusto Facebook page. If I choose it, I'll be sure to credit you.

There has been some talk recently that the Oklahoma City Thunder should trade James Harden since he's in the last year of his contract and as a small market team they probably don't really have the funds to resign him after this year. Whether or not they agree with this assessment is up to them. But let's take take a look at some potential trades anyway:

1. Harden (Thunder) for Rip Hamilton, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler (Bulls):

Why the Thunder like this trade: The Thunder could use more scoring in the paint. Enter Taj Gibson. While he also has just a year left on his contract, resigning him would be considerably cheaper than resigning Harden. Butler is a nice wing prospect who might turn into something more. Hamilton is there simply to make the money work. In a few months, when more players are available to trade, the Bulls could switch Hamilton out for a few of their cheaper players.

Why the Bulls like this trade: Looking forward to when Rose is healthy again, the Bulls desperately need more scoring on their team so Rose doesn't have to handle all the work. Enter James Harden. And the Bulls – as a large market team – could afford to pay the luxury tax they would accrue by resigning him after the year.

2. Harden (Thunder) for Austin Rivers and Jason Smith (Hornets)

Why the Thunder like this trade: If you have to get rid of Harden, Rivers would be a nice return. More of a true shooting guard than Harden – who I envision more as a wing forward – and with four years left on his rookie contract, Rivers would form a formidable backcourt with Russell Westbrook for years.

Why the Hornets like this trade: A starting foursome of Eric Gordon, Harden, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis could be incredibly fun to watch and put the Hornets back on the NBA map just a year after trading away Chris Paul. Harden and Anderson especially would complement each other since Harden's drives will be able to give Anderson space in a way that Davis simply can't at this point in his career. And as a Magic fan, I of all people can tell you how good Anderson can be when he has space and how bad he can be without it (see 2011 and 2012 playoffs).

3. Harden, Daequan Cook, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson (Thunder) for Pau Gasol (Lakers)

Why the Thunder like this trade: This might be the dumbest trade I've suggested in my history of NBA Trade Machine columns, but that hasn't stopped me yet. The question, of course, is how good would a starting five of Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol and Kendrick Perkins be? Do you like it more than Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Nick Collison and Dwight Howard? I think I do. Perkins historically has been Howard kryptonite and Westbrook has dominated Nash the past few years. I think this trade makes the Thunder the favorites for the title.

Why the Lakers like this trade: We all know the Lakers need to get more athletic on the wing, but is this the trade for them? On paper, it makes the Lakers a better team. They need someone like Harden more than they need someone like Gasol, whose effectiveness I believe will be stifled with Howard clogging the middle. If the Lakers makes this trade and then somehow can find a stretch four – who would pair much better with Howard than Collison – then you're looking at maybe the best constructed team in the NBA.

• Joe Grace is a writer and journalist who lives in Chicago with his wife. The NFL is nice. But as one of the 10 diehard NBA fans in the U.S., he's very happy preseason is almost here.

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