- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Believe it or not, there was a time when Bradley Beal was almost traded for James Harden.

Back in 2012, the Washington Wizards mulled trading their third overall pick — which ended up being used on Beal — to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for James Harden. Washington reportedly turned down the deal because owner Ted Leonsis was unwilling to give Harden a five-year, $80 million extension.

It’s a fascinating “what if,” and Beal recalled the potential scenario recently on Showtime’s “All The Smoke” podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.

“We’re sitting in the draft enough. Sure enough, my agent was like, ‘It’s possible you might go to OKC,’” Beal said. “I said, ‘Damn, how am I gonna go there? I didn’t even work out for OKC.’ … So the deal was to trade James to Washington.

“I’d have been in OKC with KD and Russ.”

KD and Russ, of course, refers to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder were coming off an NBA Finals appearance against the Miami Heat and one of the most promising young teams in the league with Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Serge Ibaka.

The Thunder decided to trade Harden, who served as Oklahoma City’s energetic sixth man, in an effort to avoid the NBA’s luxury tax. With Washington declining the deal, Oklahoma City eventually shipped Harden to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first-round picks. Harden went on to blossom into a future MVP.

“That was a last-minute decision,” Beal said of the Wizards‘ involvement. “It was almost done.”

In 2012, Harden addressed the potential Wizards trade in an interview with the Washington Post.

“I don’t get bothered or intrigued by stuff like that, no,” Harden said. “I mean, I guess I wasn’t a fit for that organization or whatever they are moving forward to. What I can control is me going out there and playing my hardest and helping my team win games.”

Harden’s fit in Washington would have been fascinating. There’s no guarantee he would have become the future MVP like he did in Houston. With the Wizards, Harden would have had to mesh with star point guard John Wall — and who knows how that would have turned out?

In Houston, Harden became the sole focal point of the Rockets’ offense. Could he have been as dominant without the ball as much?

Since arriving in Houston, Harden has led the league in scoring twice and is an eight-time All-Star.

Beal’s fit in Oklahoma City, too, is something to wonder about. He likely would have been the third option behind Durant and Westbrook, but his scoring ability could have been exactly what the Thunder needed as it came up short in the following years. Martin and Lamb failed to provide the consistent scoring that Harden did for the Thunder.

Funny enough, Harden and Beal led the league in scoring this year before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season.

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