The Philadelphia 76ers have reportedly emerged as the favorite to acquire superstar guard James Harden if he's traded by the Houston Rockets.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the update Friday:
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
The Rockets insist (for now) they will not trade Harden. The Sixers insist (for now) they will not trade Ben Simmons But sources say the familiarity between the front offices can ultimately defuse any lingering tension from Daryl Morey's departure from Houston to Philadelphia
The Sixers are one of four teams Harden considers preferred destinations along with the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Speculation about the 2017-18 NBA MVP's future has amplified since the Rockets traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in a blockbuster deal that brought in John Wall, but there's been no indication a similar seismic swap is imminent involving Harden.
Charania reported the three-time defending NBA scoring champion informed the team's front office "he wants to be traded to compete for a title elsewhere, and has been resigned to the belief that he can no longer compete for a championship in Houston."
The Rockets aren't going to budge unless the offer includes an emerging star or established veteran—the Nets' Kyrie Irving was mentioned—and a king's ransom of draft picks, according to Charania.
New head coach Stephen Silas said last week he was giving Harden time rather than trying to force him into a potentially uncomfortable conversation.
"When stuff like this kind of happens where there's a little indecision and stuff going on, I kind of take a step back and allow guys some space," Silas told reporters.
Harden has since reported to the Rockets' team facilities for training camp, but he'll need to register six negative COVID-19 tests before he's allowed to practice, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
The 31-year-old Arizona State product has two guaranteed seasons left on his four-year, $171.1 million contract, which also includes a player option for the 2022-23 campaign.
It seems likely Harden will open the year with the Rockets, who tip off the regular season Dec. 23 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If Houston does begin to seriously entertain offers for the eight-time All-Star, a reunion with former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in Philadelphia could be in the cards with Ben Simmons the main piece of the return package.