Report: Rockets plan to use James Harden as ‘lead recruiter’ to pursue free agent Kevin Durant in 2016

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Kevin Durant is under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the next two seasons, and has done nothing to indicate that he’s unhappy there in the slightest.

But that hasn’t stopped speculation about where he might choose to play, when it’ll be his turn at unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2016.

Durant took notice of how LeBron James returned home to play in Cleveland this summer, and lauded the move as a “classy” one at the time.  Home for Durant would be in D.C. with the Wizards, but you can be certain that every team in a position to sign him to a max deal will come calling — and that includes Houston, who just happens to have one of Durant’s former teammates firmly in place on its roster.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

The Rockets are widely expected to take a step back this season, thanks to all the depth they squandered on the Bosh dice roll, but they expect to have significant salary-cap room next summer — when they can chase point guards as accomplished as Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo if they choose — as well as in the summer of 2016.

Which is when, sources say, they’d like to give Harden an opportunity to serve as Houston’s lead recruiter in the pursuit of a free agent named Kevin Wayne Durant. …

“We are always going to be swinging big,” [Rockets GM Daryl Morey] said. “We’re only about trying to win championships and how to make that happen. We take big swings at things. Obviously, it worked out the last two summers, but the only way you can land a James Harden or a Dwight Howard is by taking big swings. Sometimes, you hit. Sometimes, you miss. Bosh chose to stay in Miami, but that’s not always going to be the case.”

That tidbit comes from a longer piece about how Chandler Parsons ended up with the Dallas Mavericks this summer. Houston was extremely close to convincing Bosh to come, before the Heat offered him a full max deal to stay.

Had Bosh signed on, the Rockets would have matched the offer sheet Parsons signed in Dallas — even though it’s the same deal Morey later called “one of the most untradeable ever.” The reason being, Houston would have been a championship contender with that core of players, so the expense would have been justifiable.

The Rockets essentially determined that Parsons wasn’t the third elite player that they would require in order to be in the hunt for championships for seasons to come. That decision will likely set them back a bit this year, but the flexibility the team has from a salary cap perspective will have them in position to chase more stars in the seasons ahead — including Durant, no matter how unlikely his choosing to play in Houston may seem today, as we try to predict what may or may not happen two years from now.