The Rod Wave: How good will James Harden be on the Clippers? 

FILE – Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas Batum plays the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Seattle. James Harden got his trade to the Clippers. The Sixers sent Harden, P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrušev to Los Angeles for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batum, K.J. Martin, a 2028 unprotected first-round pick, two second-round picks, a 2029 draft-pick swap and additional first-rounder from a third team, a person familiar with the trade told The Associated Press Tuesday, Oct. 31. Photo by Lindsey Wasson/AP Photo.

Halloween may have been the day of the NFL trade deadline, but the NBA might have had the biggest blockbuster trade of the day. 

That deal happened to be when most people were asleep. At approximately 2:01 Eastern Standard Time, ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that James Harden was headed to the bright lights of Los Angeles as a Clipper in exchange for a haul headlined by Marcus Morris and a slew of NBA draft picks. The move marked the end of some drama-filled months for the former Rockets star and his franchise, specifically his relationship with GM Daryl Morey. 

With Harden playing for the Clippers, it’ll be certainly interesting to check out what his role will be and how he will fit in with the multiple stars on the roster. 

First and foremost, this is not the first time that NBA fans have seen both Harden and current Clippers guard, Russell Westbrook, on the same team. Both players were on the Rockets from 2019-20 and while their season didn’t end exactly as the team had hoped, there were lessons to be learned from that year between the two. 

With that being said, Tyronn Lue has a whole different challenge with this roster. There is only one ball on the court and considering that this roster features Westbrook, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and now Harden, the players are going to need to be a bit more generous with the basketball this season, especially Harden. They don’t need the score-first all-star that was playing in Houston. This team needs the pass-first Harden that is going to find his teammates for the best possible chance of scoring the basketball.  

Keep in mind, Harden may not have to do this all season, especially if either Leonard or George miss time, a reality that’s been seen throughout the Clippers tenure featuring the superstar duo. He’s going to have plenty of opportunities to get his touches and there’s going to be plenty of situations where he’s going to need to have the ball in his hands for this team to win. 

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. Photo by Chris Szagola/AP Photo.

Obviously, Harden will be starting on this roster at the shooting guard spot. But, there should be some situations where they only have Harden, Leonard and George on the court at the same time if the entire trio is healthy. This would allow Westbrook to have even more of a positive impact on this roster, helping lead a second unit that did lose some pieces to make the Harden trade happen. I’ve always been a huge advocate for Westbrook actually coming off the bench since his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers and it was an experiment that did see some positives for that rotation. There’s no denying that the former Thunder superstar has been a welcome addition to this team, but that’s certainly an option worth exploring at the very least. 

Could that be something that Lue uses to get the most out of this roster of superstars? It should certainly be on the table. The bottom line is that Harden is going to be a great player for this roster as a dependable scorer when this team needs him to be. However, there’s certainly some things that need to be ironed out before any other definitive expectations are in place. What will Harden look like in a potential playoff run? What happens if Leonard or George are not healthy enough to be there if the former all-star disappears in the playoffs? What happens if the pair aren’t healthy for extended periods of time? 

These are all questions and real possibilities that could deter Harden’s maximum potential with this lineup. There are other factors such as the team’s defense that should be taken into account, but thanks to the additions of players like P.J. Tucker and the current presence of players like George, the team should be able to fill that problem well. This may not be the final piece that this Clippers team will grab, so there may be more help on the way. 

Regardless, this is an exciting add and, while it may not be enough to contend with the top teams in the West like the Nuggets, this is going to be an exciting lineup to watch on a nightly basis. 

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