1. James Harden is no guarantee for the Rockets
You likely know by now that the Rockets have an interest in James Harden returning to his old stomping grounds. Actually, I'm quite certain that you know, because there's no way to avoid the chatter at this point.
Every reporter feels compelled to remind us every week. But it's important that the Rockets identify their point guard, regardless of whether it's Harden or not, and Harden's situation is complicated.
Many believe Harden has been the one putting leaks out to the national media, in hopes of getting Philadelphia's brass to give him a max deal, with fear of him bolting to the Rockets if they don't. This could also be why Harden took a pay cut last summer, not only to allow them to make roster additions, but also in hopes of having them scratch his back in return one year later.
Harden is surely seeking a max deal from Philadelphia (4 years $210 million), as he knows this will be last chance at a max deal due to his age (34-years-old when the 2023-24 season starts). Using the Rockets as a leverage play could very well be in the cards for Uno, as Harden's only real leverage play is getting Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey to believe he'll legitimately bolt if he doesn't get what he's looking for financially.
And make no mistake, this should strike fear in the hearts of the Sixers, as they'd have no replacement for Harden. And they've especially realized this during the 2023 postseason, which has seen The Beard drop 40+ points twice in four games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics.
My guess is that the Sixers will ultimately give Harden a new deal at the end of the season, not only because they can't duplicate his level of production, but also because they don't want to waste Joel Embiid's prime, after realizing that Ben Simmons wasn't their long-term floor general.
If the Rockets lose out on Harden to the Sixers, CP3 would be a great fallback option.