James Harden has, on multiple occasions, cited his deferential role by choice. He chooses to play set-up man, sacrificing shot attempts to get touches for Embiid, Maxey, and all his teammates. And clearly he’s telling the truth; the difference between Harden’s approach in Philadelphia compared to his approach in Houston — even Brooklyn — is stark.
That being said, is there part of Harden the yearns for a more central role offensively? He led the league in assists, so it’s not like he’s short on touches. But Harden does spend large portions of his time on the floor stationed off the ball, spacing the floor while Embiid works the painted area.
The Rockets, smart or not, can offer Harden the chance to be the alpha once more. He’d get to boost his shot attempts and to play aggressively with less imminent pressure to win. The Rockets are young, but they have shooting and athleticism and a very skilled big in Alperen Sengun to operate with Harden in the two-man game. Plus, they just hired a broadly respected head coach in Ime Udoka who has experience coaching Harden as an assistant in Brooklyn.
There’s a chance the Rockets can sway Harden on those grounds — especially if the financial advantage also slides in their direction.