Denver interested in James Harden trade, even if they don’t wind up with Rockets star

The Denver Nuggets are looking to elevate their status from surprise conference finalist to full-throated championship contender.

A James Harden trade could help them do just that — even if they don’t acquire the Houston Rockets superstar.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst shed some light on the state of league-wide interest in Harden, noting that a slew of “good, not great” sorta-contenders in both conferences have, at least, made the requisite phone calls to inquire about Harden’s price tag. After all, a superstar of Harden’s caliber with two years remaining on his contract doesn’t hit the trade market often. Any deal involving the 2018 MVP (and its collateral damage) could immediately alter the landscape of the league.

In some cases, like with the Milwaukee Bucks, discussions didn’t progress farther than the initial inquiry. A number of Eastern Conference teams have put in a “courtesy call.” Other teams, like the Portland Trail Blazers, are more closely monitoring the situation, per Windhorst.

The Nuggets, too, are keeping a close eye on the developments in Houston. According to Windhorst, Denver may be interested in joining a multi-team blockbuster, even if Harden doesn’t wind up in Denver.

Windhorst previously reported that the Nuggets were among the franchises that had called Rockets GM Rafael Stone about Harden.

With a host of valuable young players — Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Bol Bol  — and a full cabinet of draft picks, Denver could theoretically put together a strong package for Harden. However, Windhorst’s recent reporting indicates that Nuggets president Tim Connelly may be exploring other ways to profit from a Harden deal, perhaps without trading Murray.

Denver is off to a sluggish 1-3 start, and perhaps there will be more urgency if things don’t turn around soon. Porter will be an intriguing name to watch in any of these trade talks given his potential.

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