With the offseason coming up, the Philadelphia 76ers have to consider their options, specifically with James Harden. While it’s possible Harden could stay or leave via free agency, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that another option could be on the table.
“There’s the idea of Phoenix exchanging Paul for James Harden, which has quietly circulated around some league personnel since the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago,” Fischer wrote. “A reunion between Harden and Durant makes for great fodder, and the bearded point guard could feasibly pick up his 2023-24 player option on the condition Philadelphia trades him to the Suns.”
Fischer said that such a deal has been done before with Paul, referencing when Paul became teammates with Harden on the Houston Rockets in 2017, though he added that such a move may not be beneficial for Harden.
“You may remember Paul pulled that exact maneuver to join Harden in Houston in 2017. Harden, though, stands to gain quite a bit more financially from either staying pat with the 76ers or returning to the Rockets and their $60-plus million in-waiting cap space.”
Exec Says James Harden is ‘No Longer a Max Player’
An NBA executive told Heavy Sports Steve Bulpett believes that not only is Harden using the Rockets as leverage, but he believes Harden is doing so to try to get as much money as possible because he believes Harden is not a max player anymore.
“There’s this talk about him going back to Houston, but from what I understand, it’s nothing more than a negotiating ploy. He knows that these guys aren’t going to max him. He’s no longer a max player, but he’s hoping that Philly wants him back and is willing to pay him.
“Houston’s making changes, so what connections will James have with the new people — and why would Houston, that has a bunch of youngsters that they’re trying to grow into NBA players, why would they bring in someone with James’ history of partying?”
An Eastern Conference executive agreed with that sentiment while also questioning if Harden could embrace a lesser role.
“Is he ready to take that role and be paid what that role is worth? From our conversations, what James is looking for is someone to pay him at a rate that he thinks that he’s worth, which he’s not.
“So James is in that unfortunate circumstance that we talk about all the time. Who’s the last person to know it’s over? The player. His status as a max, alpha player in this league, it’s over. He can’t produce wins,” the exec said.
NBA Insider Says Harden-Suns are ‘Discussions in the Wind’
“They don’t (waive Paul) unless they feel pretty good about somebody else, and I want you to keep your eye on James Harden,” Shelburne said. “I don’t want to report anything, but that was in the wind the past month or so. Everybody thinks it’s Philly or Houston, but there have been discussions in the wind.”