Per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.com, one Western Conference executive explained why the Rockets should wait until next offseason to deal their superstar:
“I think you can now argue that Houston needs to hold tight until the offseason to move James because there will be far more competition for him. Contending teams that kept their powder dry plotting a run at Giannis and bad teams that can absorb him into a preponderance of cap space. I don't see things changing significantly by the deadline, and the number is so hard to aggregate that good teams don't really have enough fungible money. If they get to the deadline and are in contention, you are less likely to throw a bunch of deals at them to stack up to Harden."
Two years ago, the summer of 2021 was being looked at as the greatest free-agent class in NBA history. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and CJ McCollum were among the stars who could have been available.
Fast forward to today, and Leonard is the only player from that group who can become a free agent if he opts out of his deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Harden seems intent on playing for a new team as soon as possible, as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported the 2018 MVP is "unmoved and uninterested in pursuing a new partnership" with John Wall in Houston and "continues to push" for a trade.
One potential issue: Harden is owed $41.3 million in 2020-21 and $44.3 million in 2021-22—tough for any club to absorb at this point in the year.
Harden, arguably the best offensive player in the NBA, has led the league in scoring the past three seasons, averaging 34.3 points per game during the 2019-20 campaign.