Counterpoint: how holding on to James Harden might pay off for Rockets

Rockets James Harden
Good things come to those that wait. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I'm sure by now most of you are aware of the saga surrounding the Rockets and their enigmatic star James Harden. If you aren't, here's a quick rundown: The Rockets failed to re-sign the coach (Mike D'Antoni) who allowed Harden to become a ball-hogging MVP candidate; they parted ways with the general manager (Darryl Morey) who allowed Harden to run the franchise; when they didn't hire the coach he wanted, he decided to demand a trade and list several contenders in the Eastern Conference who he'd like to play for.

Everyone seems to have an opinion as to what the Rockets should do with Harden. Some say trade him and get what you can, some say keep him, others are so done with the whole thing they've become indifferent. I fall in the middle because I want them to keep him, but trade him later. One of my colleague's here at SportsMap, Zach Allen, wrote that he feels they should trade Harden ASAP. I disagree, and here's why:

Harden has no leverage

He's under contract this year and two more after that, although the 2022-2023 season has a player option he likely wouldn't exercise. If he decides to sit out games and practices, he can be fined. This would only make things more contentious with the Rockets and further damage his already off-putting reputation around the league. When Anthony Davis did this when he wanted out of New Orleans, he had a rep for being a good guy. People took it as he wanted out of a bad situation and wanted to find himself in a winning organization. If Harden were to do the same, which seems like he's already doing, it will make him seem more malcontent and diva-ish than he's already perceived to be.

With the offseason additions the Rockets have made, they have some pieces in place to be a playoff team. How far up the ladder can they climb in the uber competitive West? I'd say their ceiling is 3rd seed and their floor is either the 8thseed or just missing out on the playoffs. That said, Harden may start to play with and buy into the system new coach Stephen Silas has going. If he sees the potential in this roster to win, he stays. If not, he could come in and play at his typical high level, elevating his value, then allowing the Rockets to trade him to the highest bidder. The only thing would be selling everyone on the fact that Harden is here to stay for the long haul. The media will be asking those questions often of everyone in the organization. Everyone would have to be on the same page as far as answers are concerned.

While I highly doubt Harden is going to stick around Houston much longer, I'd much rather see the organization take their time in finding the best deal for them moving forward as opposed to bending over for the first offer they get. Trading him ASAP doesn't work because his value wasn't high to begin with given his style of play and dropped with his recent actions and demands. Wait it out. Create the illusion he's staying. Drum up interest and get the highest price you can for him. And remember, Harden doesn't have the leverage he thinks he does. Stay woke.

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