Miami Heat Unlikely to Pursue James Harden Following Damian Lillard’s Trade

October 1, 2023

The Miami Heat’s offseason plans took an unexpected turn when the Portland Trail Blazers traded Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks, leaving Pat Riley and the front office needing a new strategy with training camp looming. Despite the disappointment of missing out on Lillard, the Heat are not inclined to pursue another star guard who has been at the center of trade rumors throughout the offseason: James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Like Lillard, Harden had been vocal about his desire to be traded to a specific team, in his case, the Los Angeles Clippers. However, like the Heat, the Clippers have been reluctant to make a suitable offer for Harden, and the 76ers have yet to budge. Compared to Lillard, Harden has not gained significant interest from other teams, and the recent Lillard trade has potentially complicated his situation further, as former Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is now available as part of the Trail Blazers. Although some reports suggest the Heat might be among the teams interested in Harden, their interest appears lukewarm.

Unlike Holiday, Harden is not known for his defensive prowess and has faced criticism regarding his conditioning, which is a critical factor for the Heat. Additionally, this marks Harden’s third trade request since his initial push to leave Houston in 2020. Given these factors, it’s understandable why Miami is not enthusiastic about pursuing him.

However, Miami still requires shot creation, especially after losing playoff starters Gabe Vincent and Max Strus to free agency. With limited time to find replacements, it’s worth noting that, despite his shortcomings, Harden remains a precious offensive player. If the Heat decide not to pursue him, another team will eventually do so.

The Heat do have alternative options on the trade front. Jrue Holiday is a possibility, though it remains to be seen how willing the Blazers are to engage in trade discussions with the Heat after rejecting their offers for Lillard. Furthermore, other guards may become available during the season, including Chicago’s All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, who have also been subject to trade rumors.

Miami has a strong track record of building competitive rosters, and their decision-making is generally sound. If they opt not to pursue Harden, they will likely explore other avenues to remain competitive against the revamped Bucks and the rest of the Eastern Conference before next spring. However, James Harden is not a part of their plans.