Saturday 23rd March 2019,
The Hoop Doctors

Washington Wizards Passed on James Harden

The Washington Wizards are no strangers to making bad decisions, which is why it should come as no surprise that they passed on the opportunity to acquire James Harden.

According to Michael Lee of The Washington Post, the Oklahoma City Thunder would have agreed to send their combo guard to the Wizards in exchange for rookie Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton, but Washington wasn’t willing to pony up the dough it would have cost to sign Harden:

The Washington Wizards turned down a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for James Harden this summer because team owner Ted Leonsis was unwilling to commit to what would have been a roughly $80 million, five-year contract for the high-scoring player, according to multiple people with knowledge of the proposed deal.

The Wizards would have sent rookie guard Bradley Beal and second-year forward Chris Singleton to the Thunder in return for Harden, winner of the NBA’s sixth-man award with Oklahoma City last season, according to these individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the proposal.

My first thought borders on “Are you kidding me?” but then the shock begins to wear off and we come to understand that is just Washington being Washington.

As the team with the worst record in the NBA, the Wizards certainly could have used Harden’s offensive prowess. Especially with John Wall on the sidelines and especially at such a low cost.

Bear in mind the Thunder ultimately shipped Harden to the Houston Rockets in exchange for the star-esque offensive stylings of Kevin Martin, coveted prospect Jeremy Lamb and a few draft picks. Even before Oklahoma City was thrashing opponents on a daily basis once again, that seemed like a fair trade. Which means what the Wizards would have had to give up would have been highway robbery—for Washington.

Both Singleton and Beal are promising prospects, but at that point, Beal had yet to set foot on the court and Singleton has had lukewarm impressions on everyone. It becomes even harder to understand the rejected proposal knowing that Harden is an All-Star, someone who could have provided the Wizards with a promising outlook immediately.

Alas, though, Washington—we can only assume—did not want to foot the lofty luxury tax bill that would have headed their way in 2013-14. The Wizards already have over $67 million on the books for next season, and Harden’s max contract would have undoubtedly put them over the painstakingly brutal luxury tax hump.

And yet, is that really a good enough excuse? Understandably the Wizards didn’t want to empty their pockets, but this could have all been avoided had they opted not to deal for the injury-prone Nene or underwhelming Emeka Okafor. Why make those moves? Why take on those bloated salaries in the first place, even when Harden wasn’t considered an option?

Those are questions that have plagued Washington since it struck its first “blockbuster” deal last season with the Denver Nuggets. Now, however, as we watch Harden tear it up in Houston, I’m inclined to ask “why?” once again. Why can’t this team seem to do anything right?

Or better yet, why did this team actively pass on making what was both the right and easy decision with regards to Harden?

The Wizards could have had another star to play alongside Wall. They could have had one of the most formidable backcourts in all of basketball now, not merely boast the aspirations of having that later.

They could have had hope now.

But they don’t. Instead, Washington is Harden-less, and subsequently, this season, also hopeless.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at in addition to Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.


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