As a championship-aspiring team in a loaded Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors’ immediate focus won’t be on the opposing side of the league. Still, major roster decisions always permeate across the league, and Saturday’s move from the Philadelphia 76ers will be no exception.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the 76ers and General Manager Daryl Morey have “ended trade talks” surrounding former MVP James Harden. The 33-year-old requested a trade after opting into his contract in June, but will now seemingly return to Philadelphia for a third season.
Will the Golden State Warriors and other championship-contending teams be thankful for the Philadelphia 76ers’ decision to retain James Harden?
How Harden and the 76ers reunite in training camp will be one of the NBA’s biggest storylines over the next six weeks. The 10-time All-Star has a history of forcing his way out of organizations by underperforming and not keeping himself in ideal physical shape, evident by his departure from both Houston and Brooklyn.
Harden should at least have the motivation of playing for a new contract next summer, but that doesn’t bring a guarantee that he won’t impede Philadelphia’s plans to deliver a long-awaited championship next season.
"“Harden is unhappy with Sixers president Daryl Morey over the lack of a long-term maximum-level contract offer, sources said, and the team is risking Harden’s arrival at training camp bringing anything but a championship mindset”, Wojnarowski wrote."
Although Harden’s return to the 76ers may not directly impact the Warriors — they only see Philly twice in the regular season and wouldn’t meet them in the postseason till a potential NBA Finals — it could make one of their pacific division rivals much less of a threat.
Harden’s desired destination was the LA Clippers where he would have formed a trio alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. While you may argue neither of the three are any longer in their prime, they would still be a dangerous proposition in a stacked division.
The Clippers too aspire for championship success, but their chances over recent seasons have been decimated by inevitable injuries to Leonard and George. Adding another star in Harden wouldn’t have just lifted their ceiling, but significantly elevated their floor for when they’re plagued by absences.
Harden met the Warriors in four playoff series in a five-year span during his time with the Rockets. He averages 23.5 points, 6.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 39 games against Golden State throughout his 14-year career.