Report: Many NBA sources view James Harden to Rockets as inevitable

The Houston Rockets will have NBA-leading salary cap space of ~$60 million in the 2023 offseason, and former franchise icon James Harden can become a free agent. Rumors of a potential reunion with the team where he was once an MVP have swirled for months.

Now, even as Harden’s current team — the Philadelphia 76ers — remains in the middle of a competitive second-round playoff series, the outside rumors seemingly remain as loud as ever.

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Per Ari Alexander of KPRC, Houston’s NBC affiliate:

The Rockets could look totally different in 2023-24, if you believe the persistent rumors surrounding James Harden’s return. What I’ve heard in league circles is similar to what many Rockets fans are reading — that James Harden’s return is being treated as an inevitability. Harden has one year remaining on his deal with the 76ers but is expected to opt out and either seek a new deal or sign with the Rockets.

Harden is very comfortable in Houston, with a home, restaurant and all of his favorite haunts. He’s said to have good relationship with Jalen Green (they’re close through both typical basketball events and as faces of Adidas Basketball, where Green regularly wears Harden’s signature shoes).

In 36.8 minutes, Harden averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and an NBA-leading 10.7 assists per game this season. Harden shot 38.5% on 3-pointers, his highest clip of any season since the Rockets made him a consistent NBA starter for the first time in the 2012-13 season.

During the 2023 playoffs, Harden is averaging 20.3 points (38.3% on 3-pointers), 8.0 assists, and 5.6 rebounds in 36.7 minutes.


Then again, Harden turns 34 years old in August, and a new contract this offseason could potentially take him into his mid-to-late 30s — an age range at which many NBA players significantly decline.

Thus, Harden’s eventual choice could be more complicated than simply whether he prefers his hometown Rockets or to stay in Philadelphia, where the 76ers are a more immediate title contender. His decision may also hinge on which of those teams is most willing to assume the risk of guaranteeing him a big salary for many years.

To that end, Alexander reports that Harden “could also be using all of his Houston interest as leverage for a better deal with the 76ers, where he’s currently competing for a championship.”

Stay tuned!


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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire