Nets facing dilemma in potential James Harden blockbuster

Nets facing dilemma in potential James Harden blockbuster

James Harden clearly wants to bolt Houston for Brooklyn, joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the NBA’s next superteam.

Now the question is what does that cost? And is everybody involved willing to pay the price to make that happen?

In the latest case of player empowerment, former Oklahoma City teammates Durant and Harden got together in L.A. and discussed teaming up again. Harden is clearly sold — although all parties are going to have to give up something.

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The Rockets would have to give up their relevance, although they might have lost that the moment Russell Westbrook demanded out. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks is going to have to give up the depth he had assiduously built. And the Nets players left would recede even further into the Big 3’s shadow. But making this work — really work — may be on Harden most of all.

He’s still under contract, and this potential deal is being instigated by the stars, not the brass. It’s not believed the teams have yet had substantive talks.

Internally, the Nets are having conversations about how high a price they would pay or should pay. Any proposed deal would be sure to include Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and likely Jarrett Allen.

“At the end of the day, I’m still going to be playing basketball. Whenever I go into the gym, and whatever happens, I’m there, I’m present,” Allen told The Post from the virtual Meals + Math Thanksgiving event. “I’m ready to play for the Nets, I’m ready to learn from everybody there and just go about my stuff and just say grounded as much as I can.”

While the core of any proposed deal is only so malleable, the Nets could push to keep Allen and include Taurean Prince. They’d likely include the No. 19 pick in Wednesday’s draft; but how many more picks and could some be swaps? How heavily protected, and could they be limited to 2024 or before, when they’d likely be lesser picks?

These are the discussions the Nets must have internally.

After Durant and Harden’s ex-OKC teammate Kendrick Perkins said last week that Harden could end up with the Nets, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Rockets guard is trying to force his way to Brooklyn. How much force he puts on his employer may be what this deal comes down to.

The Rockets aren’t incentivized to send him where he wants, but to deal him for as much as they can get. If that includes ex-Rockets GM Daryl Morey — now in Philadelphia — handing his former team Ben Simmons, or some other organization tempting them with a trove of assets, will Harden force the issue? If so, he may be the biggest X-factor in this potential superteam’s success.

Harden has won the last three scoring titles, but with the second, tenth and 13th-highest usage rates in history, firing off more shots than a kid playing Call of Duty. Durant and Irving are both prolific scorers despite being more efficient than given credit for, with Irving never in the top 100 all-time and Durant only once — when he stepped up during Westbrook’s injury and won the MVP in 2013-14.

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Durant, Steph Currry and Klay Thompson were prolific winners in Golden State all averaging more than 16 of 17 shots. But Harden’s usage rate (36.3, 40.5 en 36.1) the past three years would have to drop to mesh with Durant and Irving, who both hover around 30. And his at-times indifferent defense would have to improve.

Ja, Irving might end up playing off the ball more and ceding some playmaking duties. Marks would have to rebuild the depth. And Steve Nash would need to get his stars to not only co-exist but thrive. But in the end, getting Harden to Brooklyn — and then the Nets to the Finals — might rest more on Harden than anybody.

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