1. The Rockets walking away from Harden would prove they aren't desperate
By now you probably already know the financial ramifications for James Harden this summer. He faced the decision to take a $36.5 million player option for 2023-24 or try his hand at another pay day.
Harden took a sizable paycut last season for Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey, who he has a great relationship with, spanning from their days together in Houston. Harden's max would be a four-year deal worth shortly more than $200 million, regardless of whether he signs with the Rockets or stays in Philly (due to the over-38 rule).
The Sixers wisely have trepidation regarding giving Harden his full max, as such a deal would hinder their ability to build around both him and Embiid, not to mention the fact that Tyrese Maxey will also have to get a new deal soon (regardless of whether they kick the can down the road another year or not). Giving Harden a max deal could also prove to be another John Wall deal, as he could be raking in over $50 million at the age of 37 (and based on his injury woes at age 33, that could be scary).
In comes the Rockets, who are eager to escape the dregs of the NBA, and have their sights set on putting an end to swimming with the bottom feeders of the league. The Rockets' brass have described their desire to ascend to phase two of their rebuild, which they hope means a return to postseason play.
This desperation could potentially be the solution for the Sixers' lack of desire to give Harden his last chance at a max deal, which is why many think we've heard so much about a potential return to the Space City.
In other words, Harden would essentially be telling Morey that he can get the max deal in Houston and selling the media on the idea that he'd leave an MVP finalist in Joel Embiid and a team that was one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals to go to a team that won just 22 games and would likely not even reach the Western Conference Semifinals with Harden.
In theory, the Rockets know that the only chance they'd have at reeling in a big fish given the current state of the franchise is to overpay, and with $60 million in cap space, they have the ability to pull that off. So giving Harden his max would simply be the cost of doing business in Houston.
Based on Stephen A. Smith's report, the Rockets aren't operating with that level of desperation, which is a great thing, because this means they won't be taken advantage of and are willing to draw a line in the sand and walk away, even if it means shunning a franchise icon. In other words, we know our value and realize the importance of utilizing our cap space correctly, as opposed to giving a significant chunk of it to one player, who won't improve our team as significantly as we want him to.
All in all, let's hope Smith is right, because this would be a good thing.