The Los Angeles Lakers stand in the way and beat Houston 117-100 Tuesday night after eliminating the Rockets in five games in the second round last postseason.
"Privately, Harden knows the team as currently constructed can't defeat the Lakers in a seven-game series, a reality that only further cements desires for a move elsewhere," Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported.
Iko also noted Harden's "desires for a trade were reinforced" after Sunday's 120-102 loss to the Lakers.
"I love this city," Harden said after the Rockets fell to 3-6 on Tuesday. "I literally have done everything that I can. The situation is crazy; it's something that I don't think can be fixed."
Tuesday's loss was the second straight to the Lakers and showed there was a clear divide between the two Western Conference squads.
"We're not even close, honestly, to that team—obviously the defending champions—and all the other elite teams out there," Harden added, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. "I mean, you can tell the difference in these last two games.
"We're just not good enough—chemistry, talent-wise, just everything. And it was clear these last two games."
MacMahon reported Houston has spoken to "more than a half-dozen teams" about a trade. The 31-year-old cannot become a free agent until after the 2021-22 season; he has a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23.
Harden has already earned plenty of individual hardware, including one MVP award, eight All-Star selections and three scoring titles. Team success has eluded him, however, as he's taken the Rockets to eight straight playoff appearances but zero Western Conference titles.
His only appearance in the NBA Finals came with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the team fell in five games to LeBron James' Miami Heat.
Based on Harden's assessment of the Rockets, things won't change for him this year unless it's in a new location.