NBA Lottery Team ‘Serious’ About Courting Sixers’ James Harden: Report

James Harden

Getty James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers

Marc Stein reported on his Substack that the Houston Rockets have made it clear to NBA teams that they are serious in their plans of pursuing Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden this coming offseason.

“Even before Harden rumbled for 45 points in Philadelphia’s Game 1 win at Boston — with the benefit of just four trips to the free-throw line — Houston had already convinced numerous rivals that it is serious about the plan to become a summertime bidder for The Beard,” Stein said.

Stein added that there’s another factor at stake regarding their pursuit of Harden this summer – where they place in the NBA’s upcoming lottery.

“Another variable to keep track of here, certainly, is what happens on May 16, when the Rockets learn how they fare in the Victor Wembanyama Sweepstakes. Would the Rockets still seek a Harden reunion if they win the right to draft Wemby No. 1 overall?”

The Rockets tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the second-worst record in the league this season – behind only the Detroit Pistons – and have a 14% chance of getting the no. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. While Wembanyama is expected to be the no. 1 pick in the draft, there are other tantalizing prospects coming in as well, like Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller. The potential of prospects like them could also affect the Rockets’ pursuit for Harden this summer.

James Harden Could Be Lured Away by More Lucrative Deal

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report previewed how the Sixers may approach Harden’s upcoming free agency, talking about their salary cap both in the immediate and long-term.

“The franchise can afford a significant tax bill in the immediate term since Tobias Harris will come off after this next season (heading into his final year at $39.3 million). Still, keeping payroll down won’t be easy, with over $50 million per season committed to Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey expecting a healthy extension this offseason,” Pincus said.

Pincus added that the Rockets may have the edge if they offer a longer-term deal than the Sixers.

“A shorter deal for Harden may appeal more to the franchise, but that may drive him to look elsewhere, including a potential return to the Houston Rockets. Houston has the cap room to offer a four-season $201.7 million maximum contract. While Philadelphia can beat that, that may be more than the franchise is willing to provide—and with no state taxes in Texas, Harden may net more with the Rockets.”

Joel Embiid Praises James Harden After Winning MVP

During his MVP Press Conference, Joel Embiid singled out Harden for helping him win the award and also for how good of a distributor he is.

“James is, man, I don’t even know where to start. I think since he’s been here, I think he won’t tell me that, but I think he kinda made his goal for me to be the MVP. He’s given up a lot, and obviously, I’ve always said it, he’s the best playmaker I’ve ever played with, and he’s the best playmaker in probably the NBA,” Embiid said.

Embiid elaborated on how Harden has helped him when they take the floor and how supportive he was of Embiid winning the award.

“He’s been helping me as far as getting me easy opportunities, whether it’s scoring the ball or just be a better basketball player on and off the court. He was just extremely happy for me, just like they (the Sixers players) all were, and that meant a lot for me. That meant a lot to me to know that your teammates care about you as much as I care about them,” Embiid added.