Why the Rockets should pass on a Harden reunion

Houston Rockets, NBA Free Agency

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After an ugly ending to their relationship, the Rockets should focus on the future of the promising young core, and should pass on James Harden.

Early Sunday morning as many were still opening their Christmas presents, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski decided to hijack the holiday and drop one of his trademarked “Woj Bombs”.

According to Woj’s sources, James Harden is considering a possible reunion with his former team the Houston Rockets. Harden could be a free agent after this season, while the Rockets are projected to have $59.3 million in cap space this upcoming summer, according to Spotrac’s Keith Smith.

Even though he has fallen off his former MVP peak form, Harden should be able to command the maximum salary if he hits the open market. The Rockets will have more than enough cap space to sign their former superstar, without having to sacrifice any of their young pieces. But just because they could sign him doesn’t mean that they should.

The Houston Rockets don’t need James Harden

Although they could never overcome the Golden State Warriors hump, Houston’s Harden era was a very successful one for both parties. Unfortunately, it had an unceremonious ending, with the James Harden trade request saga. Since then, the Rockets have pivoted to rebuild their roster around the draft and have acquired some very talented young pieces that have shown some promise.

Second-year guard Jalen Green is already averaging over 20 points per game and has all the looks of a future NBA star. While fellow draft classmate Alperen Sengun has shown intriguing potential when given the opportunity, and so has this year’s rookie Jabari Smith. As of now, the Rockets have the league’s third-worst record and will probably end up with another top 5 pick in the upcoming draft.

The Rockets’ future is extremely bright, but it will take a couple of years before they are ready to be in contention for the playoffs, let alone for the title. Which is why signing James Harden makes no sense whatsoever from Houston’s standpoint. By the start of next season, Harden will be 34 years old, well off the current core’s timeline. Also, his play has waned in the last two years. If the Rockets sign Harden they will probably have to part with some of their young pieces in order to try to build a contender around Harden, who probably has no interest in being part of a rebuilding project. Even if this is not the case, and Harden is willing to play next to the young guys, his presence and playing style would stunt the growth of their players.

As of now, it is only a rumor, and may very well be just a leverage play by Harden’s camp in negotiations with the Sixers’ front office. But if it’s not, and it turns out to be true, Houston’s answer should be a swift one: “Thanks but no thanks, been there done that”.

They weren’t able to win a title with Harden at the peak of his powers, they sure aren’t going to win one now with his current version. This is why the Rockets should take a hard pass on Harden, and stay the course to build around the draft, and the core of young players.

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