It’s hard to imagine James Harden playing anywhere else in the NBA these days besides the Houston Rockets, but way back in 2012, he was almost lining up for another team.
Harden was still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 until he was traded to the Rockets. Back then, his true MVP level talent that saw him win the award last season wasn’t recognized yet.
No one knew exactly just how good the guard would be, which just makes this trade even more ridiculous to look back on, but no one knew that six years ago.
The Rockets wanted to move on from Harden almost immediately after trading for him, as they had an interest in Toronto Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas.
According to Chris Broussard and Bill Simmons via Bleacher Report, Houston inquired about trading Harden for Valanciunas in a deal that would have probably included Jose Calderon and Terrence Ross.
They also noted that Harden would have been a good fit at the Raptors because he fits Dwane Casey’s pick and roll offense better over someone like DeMar DeRozan.
At the time, Bryan Colangelo was the general manager of the Raptors, and he dismissed the idea of a trade for Harden, deciding to instead to hang onto Valanciunas. In hindsight, this was the wrong decision.
Toronto could have featured a backcourt that included DeRozan, Harden and Kyle Lowry, one that could have possibly overthrown LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
Since 2012, Harden has gone on to become one of the best players in the NBA today, winning the MVP award last season. He averaged a league-high 30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists.
Valanciunas, on the other hand, hasn’t really made an impact in the league since his arrival, with his best season coming in 2015-16 when he averaged 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game over the duration of 60 games.
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