Why are other NBA teams hearing that James Harden is headed to Houston?
- Letting them know he is not a lock to return to the 76ers, so they might want to put in a bid too.
- NBA GMs talk, they know no other contender outside of Philly has any interest in signing Harden to a huge, long-term deal; Houston would take him back.
Now, did James Harden enjoy his time in Houston? Sure, the city worshipped him and he had a lot of success (except not making the finals). Maybe he will make it his personal home once he retires. But to play for the Rockets now? It makes no sense, for the Rockets, or Harden as a player.
Going back there as a player for the 2023-24 NBA season. Ridiculous. Who says? James Harden.
Immediately after losing to Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals (mostly due to his poor play), Harden was asked what he would be looking for as he approached free agency, and he replied: ‘Competitive’.
This view was confirmed shortly thereafter by Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes
"The Houston Rockets have long been a rumored destination, but sources say Harden will only entertain suitors that present a competitive roster and the basketball freedom for the star to be himself, sources say.:"
In case you were not following the bottom of the NBA standings, only the Detroit Pistons had a worse record than the Rockets’ 22-60 last season.
They are not ‘competitive, not even mediocre. When only the Pistons lost more games than you, the word ‘horrific’ comes to mind.
Now, Houston has some young players with strong upside: Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, Kevin Porter Jr., and Kenyon Martin Jr. The Rockets also hold the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft.
In, say, four years could Houston be a contender if their young players develop? Absolutely. But to be ‘competitive’ with Denver, the Lakers and Clippers, Golden State, and Memphis next season? Absolutely not.
Why would Houston Rockets want James Harden?
Obviously, Harden is a legend there and the fans, anxious to have some immediate wins, would welcome him with open arms. He would also sell tickets, pleasing owner Tilman Fertitta.
According to Spotrac, accommodating a max $50 million a year contract for Harden would be no problem, as the Rockets project to have $65 million in practical cap space this summer.
But would the Rockets trade budding stars like Green and Porter Jr., and ship away some draft picks to make Houston ‘competitive’ this upcoming season for Harden? Of course not.
And would they have most of their open cap space gobbled up by a 34-year-old player on the downside of his career? Would think not.
The Rockets are rebuilding, and trading potential stars for mid-level veterans to win, say, 44 games, instead of 34, next year makes no sense.
(I would do a Tobias Harris for Jalen Green trade in a millisecond)
Harden would prove a valuable mentor to the youthful Rockets players. The lessons he could teach them will help them contend … in 2026.