With James Harden Fully Committed, 76ers Are Real Title Threat

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers, NBA Trade Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

The Philadelphia 76ers just made the best offseason signing by retaining their own player: James Harden. The Beard originally had a player option for next the 2022-23 NBA season worth a pretty penny: $47 million. He declined to pick up the final year of his last contract to little fanfare, as it was well-known that he intended to sign an extension with the Sixers, and there was no real drama behind his free agency.

What did drum up a little noise was how long it took Harden and Philadelphia to come up with a new deal. Nearly two weeks went by with the former Most Valuable Player technically available on the open market, leaving fans to wonder what he and Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey were scheming together.

It was known that Philly would have to do some level of financial finagling regarding Harden’s new deal to make some other announced transactions work — mainly P.J. Tucker’s three-year, $30 million signing.

Despite that fact, his actual new contract still made waves within NBA circles. While the deal still hasn’t been finalized, it had been reported that it will be a two-year deal, including a player option for the latter half, that will pay him just $32 million in 2022-2023 which gives him a $15 million pay cut.

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Not only does that figure give Morey and the Sixers the ability to sign P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, who they acquired using their biannual exception, but it also leaves them about $5 million under the hard cap offering Philadelphia flexibility to either target free agents with veteran minimum deals for the remainder of this free agency period, to stash for the buyout market, or in the case that a trade is made down the road.

By making the second year of his deal a player option, Harden and the Sixers can also go after a star in the summer of 2023; an offseason that contains a free-agent class that features Khris Middleton, Andrew Wiggins, Jerami Grant, and even LeBron James.

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Aside from the financials, though, this willingness from the Beard to work with Morey in the best interest of the team is a clear indicator that he’s all-in on trying to win a championship in Philly.

Some of the most competitive players in league history haven’t done what Harden just did: take a significant pay cut to help his team add talent. Considering the tremendous financial sacrifice he just made, it could be safe to assume that he’ll show a new level of dedication in regards to his fitness and effort on the court as well.

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As great as the Beard was during the peak of his powers, he still frequently showed up out-of-shape and was just as much an animal in the nightclubs as he was on the court. The world has yet to see a fully committed James Harden, but it might have just seen his arrival.