TL; DR - The Harden Gambit: A team in the east can send out fewer assets for Harden at the 2021 deadline than the assets they can later get by shipping him back west in the 2021 off-season.
Letís say Houston is unable to move Harden to anybody in the eastómaybe he behaves even more like an egomaniac weíre all sick of, whoever that may in your life (and keep in mind itís obvious Houston are never going to trade Harden in the west since theyíd rather lose with Harden for two years, forcing him to be part of the rebuild, rather than get scorched by him more than 1-2 times per year).
Letís say itís the deadline and Houston comes to the Celtics with the offer below (and letís say Kemba is not yet in all-star form, but weíre more optimistic about his recovery than now hence Houston being willing to take him on with their plan being to ship out Wall in some separate deal that gets them picks to rebuild with):
To BOS: Harden
2022 1st round pick (lottery-protectedóstipulate that if it is a lottery pick, HOU gets 2022 2nd round pick not our 2023 1st)
2024 1st round pick (lottery-protectedóif it is a lottery pick, HOU gets 2025 2nd round pick not our 2025 1st)
If it leads to the 2020-2021 title, weíve won the trade and it was all worth it.
But what if we take this gamble and it does not work. Harden does not get along with Tatum and/or Brown, or whatever. Basically, we do not win the title or even make it to the 2021 NBA Finals. Not good, right? But letís not forget something: We can trade Harden back to the west in the off-season, and potentially get more than we gave out because Houston was unwilling to trade him in the west. For example, imagine if we flipped Harden to the Warriors for Wiseman and one or more of Draymond, Wiggins and/or Obrie (maybe with the TPE being used to help the Warriors with their luxury tax problems). Or imagine if we flipped him to the Trailblazers for McCollum and Nurkic. Or, and this would possibly be the best of them all, the Nuggets are willing to trade Murray for Harden and future picks.
Ladies and gentleman, the Harden Gambit: If Houston is desperate at the deadline, we can turn this into a title shot this year and/or flip him in the off-season for considerably better assets than we gave out by shipping him back west. And, who knows, there is possibly a sucker in the west on par with the 2013 Nets...