The latest news regarding James Harden’s pending free agency surprised NBA fans on Wednesday, after it was reported the veteran guard feels “torn” over the decision to return to the 76ers or re-join the Rockets, where he starred from 2012 to ’21.
However, as the speculation surrounding Harden’s future continues to ramp up, a potential third landing spot has attracted much attention following comments from multiple NBA insiders who believe the Suns could throw their hat in the ring.
In the hours after Wednesday’s report, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested Phoenix could look to add Harden, who is expected to decline his $35.6 million player option for the 2023–24 season ahead of the June 29 deadline, alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.
Interestingly, both reporters factored in the Suns’ ongoing situation with Chris Paul as a potential key to any Harden talks. As reports of Phoenix’s intent to waive Paul lingered, Fischer floated the idea of a possible Harden-for-CP3 trade, a scenario he claimed “has quietly circulated around some league personnel since the NBA draft combine in Chicago” back in mid-May.
That same day, the Harden-to-Phoenix chatter added another notable nugget from Shelburne, who was live on ESPN radio when the news that Paul was set to be released first broke.
“They don’t do that unless they feel pretty good about somebody else. And I want you to keep your eye on James Harden,” Shelburne said during an appearance on ESPN 710’s Mason & Ireland. “I don’t want to report anything, but that was in the wind for the past month or so. Everybody thinks it’s, like, Philly or Houston, but, I don’t know, there has been discussion in the wind.”
While Shelburne stood firm in not calling her answer a “report,” her candid remarks, along with Fischer’s insight, will certainly supply plenty of fuel for the rumor mill as Harden’s decision looms large.
It remains to be seen if Harden and Paul, who played together in Houston for two seasons, eventually are involved in any sort of deal, but a scenario where they swap places could drastically affect the league. As it stands, that possibility remains on the table, as new Suns coach Frank Vogel confirmed this week in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix the club has not officially waived Paul despite previous reports.
“We did not waive Chris,” Vogel told Mannix. “But there’s ongoing conversations about all of the options to improve the roster, which include trades, a waiving of certain players, and retaining the guys that we have back. Those are just ongoing conversations.”