James Harden quietly guarantees he’ll opt out of 76ers deal and test NBA free agency this summer

James Harden made a quiet move on Valentine’s Day that will set up his possible departure from the Philadelphia 76ers and one last massive contract this summer.

All is well when it comes to Philadelphia basketball in 2023. After some early struggles and a pair of major injuries to top players, the 76ers have been one of the best teams in the league over the last month and have flown up the NBA standings and our recent NBA power rankings.

They are legitimate favorites to reach the NBA Finals this season, however, next season is not at all guaranteed. In the offseason, James Harden made a surprise move for a player of his caliber and opted out of his previous deal and signed a team-friendly two-year deal worth $68 million. The contract was a massive pay cut as he went from earning $42 million last year to just $33 million this season.

But a key caveat of that deal is the ability to opt-out after this season. While there were some rumblings the 33-year-old could decide to test NBA free agency this summer, he seemingly guaranteed that likelihood with a major decision this week.

James Harden guarantees jump into NBA free agency by hiring agent for the first time since 2017

james harden

On Tuesday, The Athletic’s NBA insider Shams Charania reported that James Harden hired former Adidas executive Tom Payne to be his representative in any and all negotiations in the future.

The news is notable and out of the norm for Harden because it is his first full-time agency partnership since 2017, after his former agent Rob Pelinka became the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden was able to manage the team-friendly deal he signed with the 76ers in the summer. However, this move clearly signifies the 10-time All-Star is very aware that he needs professional assistance for his next contract. And considering the strong season he is having, the deal could likely land him one final massive multi-year deal.

  • James Harden stats (’22-’23): 21.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 10.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 39% 3PT

An opt-out of his Philadelphia 76ers deal is all but assured if they fall in the playoffs or win a championship because both offer reasons for Harden to either move on or cash in one last time after achieving a career-long goal.

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