76ers Re-Sign James Harden

Photo By: David Dow/ 2022 NBAE

The Philadelphia 76ers and superstar guard James Harden came to terms on a contract extension this past Wednesday (July 20th).

The extension, as has been rumored for weeks now, is a two year deal worth $68.6 million. Furthermore, the extension provides Harden with a player option for the second year of the deal which concerns the 2023-2024 season.

As such, Harden is set to make about $33 million for the upcoming 2022-2023 NBA season. If the star opts into the second year of his contract, he’ll be due $35 million for the 2023-2024 NBA season.

This contract extension comes after Harden declined his $47.3 million player-option for this upcoming season. In doing so, Harden provided the 76ers with some additional money that the team could use in free agency. Ultimately, the star’s team-friendly gesture resulted in him taking a $15 million pay cut.

However, even with this hefty pay cut, Harden still finds himself in a secure and lucrative situation; all while he now gets to play with a much improved supporting cast. In fact, Harden’s paycut has allowed the Sixers to even bring in some of Harden’s former teammates from the Houston Rockets. Such players include the likes of P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.

So, having hashed out the details of Harden’s extension; what does it all mean for the Sixers?

As a die-hard 76ers fan myself, I would have preferred that the Sixers just let Harden walk in free agency after his putrid performance in the 2022 playoffs.

However, as anyone who follows the organization closely has likely known for a while now, there was never any realistic chance that the Sixers wouldn’t bring Harden back one way or another after trading for him in mid-January.

This reality is due entirely to Harden’s impenetrable relationship with the team’s President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey. The two have publicly expressed their admiration for one another through an ongoing love affair that dates all the way back to Morey’s time as the General Manager of the Houston Rockets.

Undoubtedly acting as his career-defining move to this day, Morey traded for (a then unproven) James Harden in October of 2012; a move that proved to be absolutely brilliant as it propelled the Rockets into nearly a decade of championship-contention.

So, accepting the fact that Harden was never leaving Philadelphia, I personally believe that the Sixers came away with the next-best possible scenario with this extension.

Harden’s extension only places him on the Sixers for a maximum of two more seasons before having to re-sign once again. 

The fact that this contract is brief should come as a major relief to Sixers fans everywhere; especially after watching what seemed to be the ghost of James Harden incompetently stumble his way through last year’s playoffs.

There is no denying that James Harden is no longer the prolific scorer and overall superstar that he once was. Instead, Harden now seems to have no burst or lateral quickness whatsoever and is completely unable to drive past defenders and to the basket.

Without the ability to drive to the basket, Harden has become a one-dimensional player with defenders now being able to guard him more tightly to prevent the step-back shots that Harden has become so synonymous with over the past decade.

With all that being said, even with his skillset and physical capabilities on the court being greatly diminished; Harden is still a productive NBA player. The veteran still remains as one of the best passing guards and ball-handlers in the league, and his ability to get on a roll from beyond the arc (while far less common than it used to be) is still a threat that opposing teams must account for.

At this point in his career, Harden is no longer suited to be the first or second best player on a championship-caliber team, but he is a more-than reliable third option.

Considering as much, paying Harden $33 million to perform as a solid floor general may be a bit excessive, but it isn’t nearly as asinine as paying him the $47.3 million that he would have been due had he opted into his player option for this coming season.

Also, as briefly touched on earlier, Harden’s willingness to take a paycut has allowed the Sixers to bring in a more effective supporting cast that includes De’Anthony Melton and Trevelin Queen in addition to Tucker and House Jr.

All in all, given the circumstances of the situation, Sixers fans should be happy with the Harden extension.

In my opinion, the 76ers’ next step should be to deal power forward Tobias Harris away in order to clear cap space for a true #2 option to round out the team’s current nucleus of Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and James Harden.

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