3 reasons the Rockets must avoid giving James Harden a max contract
3. Harden doesn't make the Rockets contenders
Another reason the Rockets should avoid giving Harden a max contract is because he doesn't make the Rockets contenders. This is something that even the biggest Harden supporter would have to admit.
This is not to say that Harden wouldn't make the team better. The Rockets have only won 25 percent of their games over the last three years, so anything would be an improvement.
It would be impossible for the Rockets to not improve over their 22-60 finish in 2022-23. But when a team finishes 14th in their own conference, that likely means they are a few pieces away.
This is also the case for the Rockets. A 33-year-old Harden wouldn't be the missing piece for the Rockets to become a formidable contender in the Western Conference.
Granted, they could become a play-in team with Harden, but is that worth spending $200 million on one player? It's been stated that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is ready to win-now.
Does a play-in berth satisfy that desire? If the Rockets' brass is relying on this version of Harden to be the savior, I'd like to sell them some land in Idaho.
The Rockets need reinforcements on the defensive end of the floor, as they ranked 29th in defensive efficiency. Does Harden fix those issues?
Certainly not. And him on a max salary would impede the Rockets' ability to add quality 3-and-D wings.
Although the fanbase would gladly accept a play-in appearance instead of the Rockets' lowly finishes in recent memory, that's not enough of a reason to throw the bag at Harden and cripple your ability to add other necessary pieces.
The mere presence of Harden wouldn't make the Rockets a legitimate contender, so any expectation of him to return and be the end-all be-all will be met with disappointment.