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NBA free agency rumors: Should James Harden go to Rockets or stay with 76ers?

The Beard is facing a decision on his future this summer.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics
James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers arrives to the arena before Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics on May 14, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Free agent guard James Harden was adamant about his commitment to the Philadelphia 76ers last summer and even took a slight pay cut to accommodate some other signings for the team, but he’s now apparently set to return to the Houston Rockets. There has been a lot of noise surrounding Harden wanting to go back to Houston, and he’s reportedly torn between the two franchises.

There are two options facing Harden, and we’ll go over both of them below.

Option 1: Go to the Rockets

Harden apparently liked living in Houston so much he’s willing to take a lot of money to play for a horrendous basketball team. This roster is not much better than it was a few years ago when Harden left to kick off Houston’s rebuild, and it’s not going to get much better with the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Houston does have some cap space, but who is Harden going to bring with him? Kyrie Irving? Khris Middleton? Draymond Green? That’s not a combination that can win a championship.

This move would be a contradiction of everything Harden has done over the last two seasons from a basketball standpoint. He put winning above everything else, and largely backed it up with his actions. The bad games for the Sixers in the playoffs are going to sting but it wasn’t like the intent wasn’t there. To do this would essentially be to put his personal gain over winning and while he is well within his right to do that, he would torpedo his image from the previous two seasons.

Option 2: Stay with the 76ers

It seems like these are the only two options on the table for Harden and from a basketball standpoint, one makes much more sense than the other. Joel Embiid is the reigning league MVP, and he formed one of the best pick-and-roll scoring duos with Harden in NBA history. Tyrese Maxey continues to improve, and Tobias Harris is a solid veteran. The 76ers were one win away from the conference finals, and now have Nick Nurse as a new voice who could take them there. Harden has cache within the organization and a staunch supporter in team president Daryl Morey. Why leave that?

Perhaps this is a leverage tactic for make sure the 76ers pay him the full maximum contract. If it is, then good for Harden trying to maximize his value at the right time.

What should Harden do?

In my opinion, Harden should first do what makes him happy. If that means living in Houston, then he should go to Houston. If that means competing for a championship in Philadelphia, then he should return to Philly.

However, once he makes up his mind, he should stop giving life to this exact type of drama. He did an excellent job of that for the last two seasons. Basketball should be the focus once he makes the ultimate call.