Throughout the season, there have been rumblings that James Harden could potentially be leaving the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency to join the Houston Rockets. There is a compelling case for either choice, however, there ultimately is a right choice for Harden to make if he still desires to win a championship before he retires.
During his stint with the Houston Rockets, James Harden went from being known as the 6th man of the year in Oklahoma City to one of the best players in the league and an MVP with the Rockets. While those days are behind him, Harden is still a very talented player. There have been reports saying that there is strong interest on both sides for a deal to be done.
The Rockets just recently signed Ime Udoka to be their head coach, and he put together an incredible track record during his time with the Boston Celtics. Along with this, while in Boston he coached Jaylen Brown. This is a player that the Rockets have been rumored to potentially make a trade for if they were to sign Harden.
Pairing these two stars with Houston’s promising young core, they would have a handful of valuable trade assets to potentially even form a big three in H-Town. This would allow Harden to retire where his career really got its start, serve as a mentor to the remaining young players on the roster, and he would be closer to friends that he frequently hangs out with like Travis Scott and Lil Baby.
The case to stay on the 76ers is that it gives Harden a better chance of potentially winning a ring before he retires. While there is a chance for Houston to make a run at a ring, it would take a lot of moves to make it happen, and they would all have to be executed almost perfectly.
Currently, on the 76ers Harden is playing with the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid. This is arguably the best pick-and-roll duo in the league and no matter who the Rockets trade for, they will not be able to find a better big man. Along with this, Tyrese Maxey is still a very young player that will continue to improve his game. He is already working his way into stardom, however, if he makes another big jump this offseason, it could be enough for the 76ers to bring home a ring in the 2023-24 season.
James Harden’s decision in free agency will likely be heavily influenced by how the 76ers finish this season. If they are bounced in the second round by the Boston Celtics, there is a strong chance that he leaves in free agency and joins the Rockets. When he signed his last deal with the 76ers, he took a pay cut so the team could put together a championship-caliber roster. If they prove they are incapable of doing this even with him taking a pay cut, it could be enough for him to jump ship.
For Harden to join the Rockets, the team must be willing to blow up and trade away most of the young core that they have spent years building since Harden last left the team. With Udoka at the helm as head coach, and a bountiful amount of trade assets they could easily build the league’s next super team and could be enough to bring James Harden the first ring of his career.
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