Philadelphia 76ers point guard James Harden had a very solid season this year, albeit it ending in disappointment in the second round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Once again, Harden faltered when the lights got bright and he will have to carry another blemish alongside his postseason resume. James Harden now arrives in NBA free agency, with a departure from the Sixers to reunite with the Houston Rockets highly rumored. Although there is no guarantee, James Harden leaving the Sixers for the Rockets looks like the most likely outcome as of right now. However, if he opts against the Rockets, there are a few other destinations that would make a lot of sense; staying with the Sixers, heading to the Chicago Bulls, or joining the San Antonio Spurs are three great potential destinations for James Harden.
The Sixers just hired Nick Nurse to be their new head coach, so if Harden were to remain in Philadelphia it would be under the former champion with the Toronto Raptors. It certainly is another added element that James Harden will have to consider once NBA free agency is underway, especially if he decides against going back to Houston. Both the Bulls and Spurs could be equally as enticing as staying with the Sixers, and James Harden could see obvious upside in either destination. Whatever happens, there will be many teams vying for the former MVP's services in NBA free agency this summer; the Sixers, Spurs and Bulls are the three best options for James Harden if he decides against joining the Rockets.
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3. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are about to be the new home of Victor Wembanyama. For James Harden, this could make the Spurs the perfect team to continue his career with. Wembanyama looks like he will be a generational player, and he would complement Harden's skillset perfectly. Wembanyama can seemingly do anything on the court and would allow Harden to be as creative as he would like to be. Not to mention, the pick-and-roll game is where Harden thrives the most, making Wembanyama the perfect developing player to pair alongside an elite scorer. Harden couldn't win a championship this year with Joel Embiid, so riding the coattails of Wembanyama's development might be his perfect chance at an NBA Finals ring.
Besides Wembanyama, Gregg Popovich would be the perfect coach for Harden. James Harden proved this year that he can adapt his style of play to best fit the team's needs and that would be a great asset for Coach Popovich. The foreseeable future for the Spurs will be focused on developing a team around Wembanyama and Harden showed this year he can do whatever he can to fill what the team needs. If a reunion with the Rockets doesn't happen, James Harden should really consider signing with the Spurs.
2. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are missing one piece in making them an NBA Finals contender and it is a competent offensive point guard. That was supposed to be Lonzo Ball before knee injuries now have his career in jeopardy. Besides Ball, the Bulls have all of the pieces to be a contender if they were able to add a star like James Harden. Their perimeter defense is some of the best in the league, and they have scorers at every position as well as solid rebounding and rim protection. The one thing they missed this season was that one elite superstar; James Harden could come be the Bulls next star.
Chicago was led this year by DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, and both were very formidable options. However, both are number two to number three options on a contender, not the number one options they were this season. Adding Harden would take the pressure off of both of them, as well as giving them a facilitating guard who can easily go get his own bucket when need be. Again, a Rockets reunion looks like the most likely outcome, but James Harden would be prudent to connect with the Bulls brass in NBA free agency.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers were one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals this season with a 3-2 lead and a home tilt in Game 6. They ended up losing two straight to the Boston Celtics and cemented another disappointing season for Philadelphia faithful. However, with NBA MVP Joel Embiid and burgeoning star Tyrese Maxey on their way back as well as new head coach Nick Nurse, the Sixers figure to be contenders once again next season. In the end, the smartest decision for James Harden would be to stay with the Sixers, as they are the most sure-fire contenders out of all the teams he could potentially join. If James Harden decided to join the Rockets, he would essentially be giving up any hope on an NBA Finals ring in the near future.
This year's Sixers team was definitely talented enough to win the NBA Finals but just fumbled in the spotlight. Both Embiid and Harden struggled in the Sixers' opportunities to close out the Celtics and they paid for it in the national media afterwards. Another offseason together and added motivation of squandering an MVP season from Embiid should make the Sixers even better next year if Harden returns. At this point in James Harden's career, the Sixers are the best destination if he wants to win an NBA championship.