James Harden, player option
The connection: Ime Udoka was on Brooklyn Nets coaching staff during 2020-21 season
Generally in the NBA, where there is smoke, there's a fire somewhere nearby. And I don't think it's a mere coincidence that James Harden has been linked to the Rockets multiple times in the past couple of months. At this point, I believe it would be surprising if Harden didn't play for the Rockets again at some point before the end of his career.
The question is, will that happen this summer? Harden has a player option for next season but either way, whether he wants to test free agency or not, I believe he's going to decline that option. He's going to get a new deal and possibly the last big contract of his career this offseason. And depending on how this postseason run ends for the Sixers, I believe that a decision on where he signs possibly his last long-term deal will come down to Philly or Houston.
The big question that the Rockets' front office needs to figure out is whether throwing a big-money deal at Harden this summer would be worth it. He'd immediately help with ticket sales, there's no question about that, but would he make this team 20 wins better? And, perhaps most importantly, would he help this team's young core develop quicker or would he stunt it?
Even if Harden is in play for the Rockets, I don't believe it's that easy of a decision.