James Harden’s future with the Philadelphia 76ers is the most pressing issue the franchise is facing this offseason. Harden, 32, has a $47 million player option for next season that he could pick up, and he’s also eligible for a monster max extension — either four of five years, depending on what he decides to do with his option. So, there are several ways that Harden’s future in Philadelphia could play out financially, but it seems like the two sides are going to meet in the middle, as Harden is expected to pick up his player option and then sign a shorter-term deal with the Sixers, according to Bleacher Report.
The Sixers traded Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of picks to acquire Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in February. He appeared in 21 games for the team during the regular season and played in all 12 of their playoff games.
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From Jake Fischer:
Two weeks from the beginning of NBA free agency on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET, all signs point toward All-Star guard James Harden returning to the Philadelphia 76ers on a shorter-term contract extension, league sources told B/R.
Harden and Sixers leadership are aligned on one clear directive, sources said: The franchise’s best opportunity to compete for a championship starring Joel Embiid, as well as Harden’s optimal opportunity to earn his first NBA ring, resides with Harden playing in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future.
Sixers ownership, though, has been resistant to the idea of giving Harden a full four-year maximum contract extension beyond his 2022-23 option season, sources told B/R, or the five-year deal that Harden would be eligible for if he chose to decline his $47.4 million player option for next season. Signing perhaps a two-year extension after his option season to create a new three-year framework would also provide Harden with greater optionality for his own career.
After Philadelphia’s season concluded, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey made it clear that the team planned to retain Harden.
“That’s the plan is to have him back. That’s been the plan since the trade,” Morey said of Harden. “Obviously, we have to work with his representation and that’ll be between us to figure out how that works. … He’s an incredibly talented player just like Joel [Embiid], just like Tobias [Harris], and I’m excited for Doc [Rivers] and his staff to have a whole offseason, work with the players, and come up with the best plan for the roster.”
Following the season, when asked if he would potentially take a pay cut in order to help the team build out the rest of the roster, Harden had this to say: “Whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow, and put us up there with the best of them. … We’re trying to win a championship. That’s the goal. Whatever that looks like.”
Signing Harden to a shorter-team deal makes sense for the Sixers as he still clearly has some gas left in the proverbial tank, and such a move protects them down the road in case his play deteriorates to an extreme level in the coming season(s). Once Harden’s deal is done and ironed out, the Sixers can continue to build out the roster around him and MVP runner-up Embiid.