Harden has a $47.4-million player option for the 2022-23, meaning he could still opt into staying in Brooklyn next season. However, declining the player option would allow Harden to hit the open market while in his prime, allowing him to pursue what would almost certainly be a lucrative long-term deal.
Still, even if he were to decline the player option, he would have the choice to restructure his arrangement with the Nets instead to remain in Brooklyn, either by opting for big-money short-term contracts or a long-term one.
"I don't plan on leaving this organization and the situation that we have," Harden told reporters back in October. "So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship. The contract and all that stuff will bear itself out, but my focus is going to be locked on this season."
As the NBA trade deadline draws nearer, however, and rumours about where Ben Simmons will end up swirl at an ever-quickening pace, one possibility has connected the fates of the disgruntled Philadelphia 76ers star and Harden.
According to Stein, a "growing number of rival teams" say they see 76ers general manager Daryl Morey's "new preferred scenario" as being to abstain from trading Simmons at the deadline, as part of a larger effort to execute a complicated sign-and-trade in the off-season to pair Harden with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia.
Brooklyn, while navigating a tumultuous season with its Big 3 of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving -- spurred by Irving's choice to be unvaccinated, making him ineligible to play in home games -- has managed to achieve the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Currently, they sit at 27-15, trailing only the Chicago Bulls.
After a rough start to his season, Harden has rounded into a form that closer approximates his MVP-calibre self with averages of 22.7 points, eight rebounds an 10 assists per game.