James Harden would become a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign a contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder before Oct. 31.
The Thunder already signed Serge Ibaka to a contract extension this summer and some think that might make it impossible for OKC to keep Harden as well. Harden would surely have to take less than the max to stay in OKC and while he has said before he’d be willing to sacrifice to stay in OKC, you just never know.
The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are two teams that reportedly would be very interested in Harden next summer if he were available. Dallas and Houston would both have the cap space necessary to offer Harden a max offer sheet that is loaded in the front.
Remember what Houston did to the New York Knicks to take Jeremy Lin from them? Basically, if Harden becomes a restricted free agent, he is gone.
Dallas and Houston are fans of Harden too, mainly because he has played very well against them and is such an efficient player overall. Harden had his first coming out party vs. Dallas in the Western Conference Finals in 2011. Then last year in the first round of the playoffs vs. Dallas, Harden averaged 18.3 points, 4.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting .500 percent from the field, .462 from three and .871 at the line.
Against Houston in the regular season last year, Harden played the Rockets four times and averaged 18.0 points 4.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. He shot .479 percent from the field, .435 from three and .889 from the free throw line.
The other team that would obviously also be interested in Harden is the Phoenix Suns, another team Harden killed last year. Harden averaged 26.7 points per game vs. the Suns in three games last season, shot .600 percent from the field and .474 percent from three.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that these three teams would be interested in getting Harden. It’s really up to Harden at the end of the day.
Thunder GM Sam Presti said that both sides are working very hard to get a deal done to keep Harden. Presti said yesterday that it would be very tough to keep Harden but he has been saying that all along.
A time will come soon where Harden sees just how much the Thunder are willing to offer him. He wants to stay in OKC and be with his friends and continue building what they all started. Hopefully that number is enough.