Harden, who is expected to decline his $35.6 player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer according to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, is seeking a new four-year deal.
In May, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that many around the league believe Harden would return to Houston when the NBA free agency period begins. According to Charania, Harden is not sure of which team he will play for as of now, but he expects the 33-year-old to have conversations with both teams over the next couple weeks leading up to the free agency starting.
“I would expect conversations over the next few weeks within the 76ers,” Charania said, during an appearance on FanDuel TV. “The Rockets will have upwards to $60 to $70 million in cap space. As we get closer to June 30 to July 1, you would meet and see exactly what both teams visions are.”
Harden recently finished his second season in Philadelphia, where he averaged 21 points and an NBA-high 10.7 assists through 58 games. Prior to joining the 76ers via trade in the middle of the 2021–22 season, Harden spent nearly a year with the Nets, and before that, spent the majority of his NBA career in Houston.
Harden’s initial interest to return to the Rockets started in December when ESPN reported that he was open to returning to the franchise. Then, in March, The Athletic reported Harden would seriously consider Houston in this year’s cycle of free agency.
In Houston, Harden blossomed into one of the league’s elite players, winning the NBA’s scoring title three straight years from 2017–18 to ’19–20, earning the ’18 MVP and guiding the Rockets to two appearances in the Western Conference finals. However, Houston traded Harden to Brooklyn in the middle of the 2020—21 campaign.
Since trading Harden, the Rockets have remained at the bottom of the league—recording a 59—177 record—while drafting a ton of young talent that includes Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Senguin.
If Harden returns to Houston, he would join a young team coached by Ime Udoka. But, if he elects to return to the City of Brotherly Love, he will be coached by Nick Nurse, who was recently named the 76ers new coach after Philadelphia fired Doc Rivers.