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James Harden likely to re-sign with Philadelphia 76ers on short-term contract

Vincent Frank

The James Harden contract situation with his Philadelphia 76ers is one of the major talking points around the Association with NBA free agency slated to open June 30.

When Harden was dealt to Philadelphia from the Brooklyn Nets back on February 10, reports indicated that the guard promised the Sixers he’d pick up the $47.37 million option on his deal for the 2022-23 season.

While that’s not official, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer cites sources to the situation in indicating that Harden will in fact pick up said option. Fischer also had a relatively interesting report within the confines of that article. Harden is now open to taking a shorter-term deal with Philadelphia.

“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.”

Jake Fisher’s report on James Harden contract

Harden, 32, could technically receive a five-year max contract from Philadelphia this summer worth a resounding $270 million. Said contract would pay the future Hall of Famer $54 million annually through his age-36 season. There’s no way that Philadelphia’s brass would be comfortable paying that out to a regressing player.

Related: James Harden and the NBA’s highest-paid players

Short-term James Harden contract would be the best of both worlds

philadelphia 76ers, james harden
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia is not going to give up on the Harden experiment mere months after sending a bounty to Brooklyn for the former NBA MVP. Front office head Daryl Morey and Co. would also likely push back against signing him to the aforementioend five-year max contract. In short, Harden had one of his worst statistical seasons in 2021-22.

  • James Harden contract (2021-22): 22.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 10.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 41% shooting, 33% 3-point

For all intents and purposes, this was Harden’s worst outputs since he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2011-12.

If Harden were to exercise his option for 2022-23 and sign a two-year extension, he could earn $150.7 million throughout the duration. That’s actually more than the 10-time All-Star would earn on an annual basis if he opted out and signed with another team this summer.

This would also give Philadelphia more financial flexibility moving forward if the Harden and Joel Embiid pairing doesn’t lead to championship contention. The 76ers are coming off a second-round NBA Playoff loss to the Miami Heat with the former struggling big time. He averaged just 18.2 points on 41% shooting in the six-game set.

Related: Daryl Morey, Philadelphia 76ers standing by Doc Rivers, James Harden

Can the Philadelphia 76ers build around James Harden?

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

They’ll try like heck. That’s the honest answer to this question. Reports since Philadelphia’s loss to Miami indicate that Morey and Co. are going all in for a third star. Short of the team moving impressive youngster Tyrese Maxey, that might be an unattainable goal. He’s said to be pretty much untouchable.

Heading into the 2022 NBA Draft, Philadelphia is said to be offering up veteran contracts and the 23rd selection for an upgrade. That includes Tobias Harris’ bloated deal. Again, this won’t be enough to move the needle.

If Harden does return to the 76ers on a short-term deal, this organization might have to bite the bullet and trade Maxey. This could enable them to add a true star to the mix such as Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Pascal Siakam or Donovan Mitchell.

Short of that happening, it stands to reason that Philadelphia will not be a top-end contender in the Eastern Conference with this current iteration of James Harden as a key cog on the roster.