One of the most intriguing storylines of the 2022 NBA offseason was the contract negotiations between the Philadelphia 76ers and James Harden. Philadelphia acquired Harden ahead of the trade deadline from the Brooklyn Nets and his contract possessed a player option for the 2022-23 season.
As part of the trade, it was reported that Harden opted into the deal. Ultimately that was not the case as the paperwork wasn’t filed in time. In the end, that ended up paying off for the organization.
Harden opted out of his deal, which many assumed would lead to him signing a massive extension. He was eligible for a five-year deal that would pay as much as $269.9 million. Given the level at which Harden performed upon being acquired by the 76ers, committing that much money to him would have handcuffed the organization when it came to making moves to the roster.
In a surprising turn of events, Harden didn’t work out a max deal. In fact, he took a massive pay cut, providing the front office a chance to upgrade the roster and improve the team’s chances of taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The pay cut is something that Harden recently talked to Yahoo Sports about in an exclusive interview.
“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”
That pay cut enabled the 76ers to acquire De’Anthony Melton in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2022 NBA Draft. In free agency, they quickly pounced on P.J. Tucker, who opted out of his deal with the Miami Heat and signed a three-year deal with the 76ers.
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The trust that Harden and Daryl Morey built during their time with the Houston Rockets is paying dividends now as the crew is back together in the City of Brotherly Love. A championship alluded them there, but they are hoping that their luck can change this time.
With Melton and Tucker, the 76ers addressed two needs on the roster. They have a deep, talented team that should make some noise in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season.
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