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Rockets sign James Harden to $228 million extension through 2023

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Harden signs the richest contract in NBA history.

NBA: Awards Show Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden is going to be a Houston Rocket for a long, long time.

The Rockets have inked their two-time MVP runner-up guard to a(nother) contract extension, except this one starts in 2019-2020 and will pay Harden $228 million until 2023, when he will be 33 years old. Harden will be in Houston through the entirety of his athletic prime, and is the only player in the NBA to be locked up for six years. Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst broke the news.

Some may scoff at this contract, considering it won’t even start for another two season, and who’s to say what the rest of the Rockets or the NBA — or Harden for that matter — will look like at the time. It’s a fair point, and this is going to pay him truckloads of money.

Look at that figure in 2022-2023. Forty-six point eight million dollars. That’s so much money. If I’m not mistaken, it will be the most any NBA player is designated to make in a single season in history. Of course, by the time 2022 rolls around, who knows what the salary cap and average salary will be.

Ultimately, the only reason to criticize this deal is the uncertainty. Harden is one of the five or six best players in the NBA. He’s 27 years old right now and coming off arguably the greatest offensive performance in modern NBA history. That’s the kind of player you sign to as much money and as many years as possible. and Daryl Morey did just that.

One need look no further than the Chris Paul trade for further justification. CP3 is one of the 10 best players in the NBA, and when he looked around the league, he decided Houston was the best chance for him to win. That’s almost solely because of Harden. Knowing that Harden will be here for the rest of the decade and then some will help convince Paul to stay, if he wants, and help entice other superstars to come here. The era of superstars joining teams to be “the guy” feels over. Having one in town is the biggest factor to trying to get another.

Well done, Morey, for getting this done, and well-done Harden for working his tail off to deserve a contract this size. Once again, the Rockets show that no one has a better short- and long-term roadmap for the franchise than they do.

UPDATE: The extension is four years and just under $170 million, which, combined with the two years, $59 million left on his deal, is worth $228 million. So right now, Harden is effectively on a six-year, $228 million contract.