The 2023 NBA playoffs have been a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Philadelphia 76ers star and Houston Rockets legend James Harden. The NBA's 2022-23 assist leader has had monstrous performances, such as a 45-point outing in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and a 42-point outing in Game 4 of the same series, in addition to a 5-for-28 showing in Games 2 and 3 combined.
On the one hand, we've seen Harden hit game-winning shots during stellar games on the other hand we've seen Harden's teammates telling him to be more aggressive in the not-so-stellar games. There have been times when Harden has been the best player on the floor, followed by times when he hasn't even been the second-best player on his team.
I could go further but you get the point. Irrespective of Harden's inconsistencies, it's well-known that the Rockets have interest in the franchise icon returning to the Space City. It's gotten to a point where we're hearing a new report stating as much practically every week from a different reporter.
And the interest makes sense, as the Rockets want to return to contention after being in the dregs of the Western Conference for the last three years, and the Rockets have $60 million in cap space, which is more than enough to give The Beard a max contract, which he is surely seeking, as this could potentially be his last chance at a pay day.
But although the Rockets have the money, they'd be foolish to give Harden a full max, which would be a four-year deal worth $201 million, for a number of reasons.
Let's dive into them one by one.