Well, ain’t that surprising? A couple of years after requesting a trade, James Harden is reportedly considering a return to the Houston Rockets in free agency. The rumblings began last week, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski then blowing it up on Christmas. It’s certainly an intriguing idea, bringing back the former hero of the franchise for one more run.

Despite all of the nostalgia about this move, though, the Rockets have plenty of reasons not to welcome back James Harden in free agency. A big part of that is the disconnect between the timelines and fit between Harden and Houston’s up-and-coming stars. Let’s examine these reasons.

Rockets are not built to compete now, even with James Harden

This is the most straightforward reason why a Rockets-James Harden reunion doesn’t make sense at all. The current Houston roster is built for the future. Most of their best prospects are still developing their skillsets. Their most tenured veteran, Eric Gordon, is already on the chopping block.

Meanwhile, James Harden is most likely competing for a title for the foreseeable future. The former Rockets star still has plenty left in the tank, as we see in his play with the Philadelphia 76ers. If he were to join a new team, that team would automatically be seen as playoff contenders at worst.

The only way this trade makes sense is if the Rockets mortgage their future and package their young players for an established star to pair with James Harden. Realistically though, what kind of player would you get for the Rockets’ young guns? They’d have to massively overpay just to get the right guy. That, or Harden doesn’t want to compete for a ring anymore. This reason alone should be enough to deter the team from pushing for the star, though it would be amusing if the Rockets used the Harden trade return they got from the Brooklyn Nets to try to get him more help.

Alperen Sengun does not mesh well with The Beard

Let’s entertain the idea that James Harden fancies this Rockets team as a contender with him in free agency. If that’s his logic, then let’s look at how he fits with the key players of the team. Specifically, let’s talk about Alperen Sengun, Houston’s hidden gem that has been sneakily impressive.

Alperen Sengun is built from the Nikola Jokic mold: a tall post-up playmaker with insane vision and passing chops. The Rockets have made him a focal piece of their offense, feeding him the ball from the post. He’s currently in the 63rd percentile in post-up plays: not too bad for a sophomore in the NBA.

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That style of play directly clashes with James Harden’s preferred playstyle, though. Harden also likes to have the ball in his hands, and get his big man involved through the pick-and-roll. When done with the right personnel, it works. Unfortunately, Alperen Sengun is not the right fit for that role.

It would be such a shame if the Rockets abandon their Alperen Sengun project, since it has so much potential.

Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.’s development will be shattered

Again, this is almost the same argument as mentioned above. Aside from Sengun, the Rockets have handed the keys of the offense to Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. Both young players have been impressive in their own ways, and both will have difficulty playing with someone like James Harden.

In his time with the Rockets, Porter has developed into a reliable playmaker and scorer for the team. He leads his team in assists per game and is also a good scorer for the team. Green, on the other hand, is more of a natural scorer, but he does have some playmaking talent in him as well.

Pairing them with James Harden is a nightmare scenario for all parties involved. Green and Porter would lose touches that are invaluable to their development. Green and Porter are also sub-par shooters from deep (both shooting below 32% this season), which would further clog the lane for Harden.

Conclusion: Don’t do it, Rockets

There’s certainly an argument to be made that the Rockets can build a contender around James Harden. As mentioned earlier, they can flip their young assets in order to get another star and/or veteran role players. We haven’t even mentioned Jabari Smith Jr. yet, who could either be a secondary player or trade bait for the Rockets in this scenario.

The real question, though, is if this gambit of a signing is worth doing for Houston. Signing Harden would be a clear win-now move by a team that’s not even close to winning now… or in two more years. It’s a short-sighted move to do, especially with the young talent they’re working with. There’s also no assurance that whoever they trade for would be enough to push them over the hump.