When James Harden becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2013, he’s going to be one of the hottest commodities on the market.
I know at least two teams near OKC (Houston & Dallas) that are huge Harden fans and will have cap space to sign him to loaded offer sheet— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) September 12, 2012
These Texas-based franchises are projected to have plenty of cap space next summer, and it would not be surprising to see them make a serious run at the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
Considering that a “loaded” contract could be headed Harden’s way, it’s possible that the dollar figures on these offers will be too rich for OKC to match.
Remember, the Thunder have Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka all under contract for the 2013-14 season.
As of right now, it’s going to be impossible for Harden to get a max deal from his current franchise. This is an issue that could be a major factor in his possible defection via free agency.
Stein noted that the young shooting guard would prefer to stick around, but may be faced with an extremely tough financial decision.
Harden wants to stay. OKC's star trio legitimately tight. But would you, at 23, take less than max if you knew you could get max elsewhere?— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) September 12, 2012
Where Will Harden End Up in 2013?
If Harden can stay at or raise his averages from the 2011-12 campaign (16.8 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 3.7 assists per game, 1.0 steal per game, 49.1 percent field-goal shooting and 39.0 percent three-point shooting in 62 games), while still coming off the bench for a championship contender, he’s going to be inundated with massive offers in the offseason.
While it remains to be seen whether the former Arizona State standout can make the leap from stud sixth man to superstar starter, it's something that many franchises will be willing to wager a lot of money on.