James Harden’s future with Los Angeles Clippers could be tied to Paul George

Los angeles Clippers' James Harden
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In a typical NBA offseason, former MVP James Harden would be among the biggest storylines. But this is not your typical summer around the Association.

In particular, Harden’s Los Angeles Clippers are in the news. It has to do with Paul George and the nine-time All-Star’s contract option for next season. George has a $48.8 million option for next season. Various reports indicate that he could very well opt in and request a trade from Los Angeles.

This reportedly leaves Harden in a holding pattern as the 34-year-old guard prepares to enter NBA free agency.

“With the domino of Paul George, one guy who’s waiting to see what happens is James Harden. He wants to see if Paul George remains, how many years Paul George gets, because he wants to align himself along with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George,” ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk reported.

The interesting dynamic here is that Los Angeles can’t extend Harden at a fair deal before free agency opens up due to its status as a second apron team under the NBA luxury tax. This means that he’ll certainly hit the open market early next month.

Related: James Harden and the best NBA players of 2024

James Harden, NBA free agency and a future with the Los Angeles Clippers

James Harden, Los Angeles Clippers

Even if George requests a trade, that doesn’t mean Harden is as good as gone. The aforementioned report indicated that he wants to align himself with deals both George and Leonard are playing under. Sans George, he could still align himself with Leonard’s deal.

Remember, Leonard surprisingly signed a three-year, $149.65 million contract extension back in January. He’s under contract through the 2026-27 season. A deal for three years at roughly $100 million could make sense for Harden.

  • James Harden stats (2023-24): 16.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 8.5 APG, 43% shooting, 38% 3-point

Harden is not the player he used to be. Teams are not going to be offering lucrative long-term contracts in free agency. That’s just the way it is right now.

Regardless of the George situation, a return to the Clippers makes the most sense. But this is certainly something worth watching as the NBA offseason hits a fever pitch.

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