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James Harden contract situation is a major backdrop to Philadelphia 76ers playoff run

Vincent Frank

The Philadelphia 76ers must contend with the James Harden contract option once their playoff run comes to a conclusion.

When Harden was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets for a package including Ben Simmons back on February 10, there were reports that the former NBA MVP had guaranteed Philadelphia’s brass that he would opt in to his contract for the 2022-23 season.

In addition to sending Simmons to the Nets, Philadelphia also exhausted two future first-round picks to acquire the high-scoring guard. Many figured that an opt-in was promised through a handshake deal between Harden and 76ers front office head Daryl Morey. That’s apparently not the case.

With Harden and his 76ers down 1-0 to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals heading into Game 2 Wednesday evening, we’re now hearing more on this.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Philadelphia’s brass firmy believes that Harden would be willing to take less to re-sign with the team this summer.

“When the Sixers got him, their intel was that he would potentially be willing to take less. And obviously, you know, nobody knows him better than Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.”

Sam Amick on potential James Harden contract extension

Since coming over from Brooklyn roughly three months ago, Harden has helped Philadelphia advance past the first round. It came via a six-game series win over the Atlanta Hawks.

With that said, his numbers are down considerably from previous seasons. Harden, 32, averaged 21.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 10.0 assists on 40% shooting in 21 regular-season games with the 76ers. Through seven playoff games, he’s averaging a mere 18.6 points on 40% shooting.

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

James Harden contract situation and the Philadelphia 76ers’ future

James-harden-Philadelphia-76ers
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Harden’s contract option for next season comes in at $47.37 million. He could technically receive a five-year deal worth $270 million from Philadelphia during the summer.

Said contract would pay the future Hall of Famer $54 million annually through his age-36 season. The break down of said contract could financially handcuff the 76ers big time moving forward.

Details of potential James Harden contract extension

  • 2022-23: $47.37 million
  • 2023-24: $49.74 million
  • 2024-25: $53.71 million
  • 2025-26: $57.69 million
  • 2026-27: $61.67 million

Paying a 36-year-old guard who has regressed $61.67 million as he turns 36 likely wouldn’t be sustainable for the 76ers.

That’s especially true with Joel Embiid’s four-year, $196 million extension set to kick in when the 2023-24 season gets going. Tobias Harris is also slated to count $39.27 million against the cap that season. We’re talking about north of $132 million allocated to three players.

This doesn’t even take into account star young guard Tyrese Maxey’s standing as a restricted free agent following the 2023-24 campaign.

Perhaps, Harden will take less to remain in Philadelphia. Perhaps, the team goes on a run to the NBA title once Embiid returns from injury. Even then, it’s clear that Harden’s contract situation complicates things for Morey and Co. moving forward.

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