Report: Houston Rockets could consider adding Chris Paul if James Harden pursuit falls through

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets could consider adding Chris Paul this offseason if they are unable to acquire James Harden, The Athletic reported Tuesday.

“Former franchise player and current [Philadelphia] 76ers guard James Harden is the top target for Houston in free agency, according to league sources, representing the veteran leadership and elite point guard needed to establish structure and offensive cohesion,” wrote Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “Outside of Harden, other high-ranking targets for Houston include Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks and restricted free agents Cam Johnson and Austin Reaves, league sources said. They also said acquiring a veteran point guard is Houston’s primary objective, meaning even if a move for Harden didn’t materialize, names like Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Donte DiVincenzo and even former Rockets player Chris Paul could be considered should they become available.”

Harden could use a player option to leave the Philadelphia 76ers and become a free agent. Paul has a partially guaranteed contract with the Phoenix Suns.

Harden and Paul each once starred for the Rockets and were teammates in Houston for two seasons (2017 to 2019).

Harden just completed his first full season with the 76ers. Paul finished his third season with the Suns.

Harden in July agreed to a two-year, $68.6 million contract extension with a player option for the 2023-24 season. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that his interest in returning to play for the Rockets is mutual and not a ploy to get a bigger contract from the 76ers. He can receive a four-year, $200 million deal if he re-signs with Philadelphia.

The 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the second round.

“I just want to have a chance to compete,” Harden said. “We played against the team who’s been together for quite a few years now. They were in The Finals last year, so you kind of know what it takes to get back there. … I still believe we got the chance to win. We got what it takes to win.”

Paul got a four-year, $120 million deal when he re-signed with the Suns in August 2021 after opting out to become a free agent. Next season, the third of the contract, becomes fully guaranteed if he is not waived by June 28.

Paul was traded by the Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal that brought Russell Westbrook to Houston in July 2019.

Harden averaged 21.0 points and 10.7 assists per game this season. Paul averaged 13.9 points and 8.9 assists per game.

Houston holds the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, but could be in win-now mode and prefer to improve through free agency. Lopez is a center, Brooks and Johnson are forwards, and Reaves is a shooting guard.

Harden played eight full seasons for Houston from 2012 to 2020 and was NBA MVP for the 2017-18 season. He led the NBA in points per game three times, and helped the Rockets reach the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and 2018.

On Jan. 13, 2021, a four-team trade landed Harden with the Brooklyn Nets. They traded him to the 76ers on Feb. 10, 2022.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.