James Harden to sign two-year, $68 million contract with Sixers

James Harden has agreed to a new deal with the Sixers, and Harden is expected to sign a two-year, $68.6 million deal to return to Philadelphia, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported Wednesday night. He will have a player option in the second year of the contract.

Harden is set to earn $33 million in 2022-23, a pay cut in excess of $14 million from the deal he opted out of this offseason. That’s a difference of about $600,000 from reports that suggested he’d take a $15 million hit this year, but in any case, Harden has given up a significant sum of money in the short term.

What has he received in return? A 1-plus-1 structure gives both Harden and the Sixers a chance to run this for a year and see where they are. If Harden returns to form next season, he leaves him with the opportunity to opt out again next summer and seek long-term security in a bigger deal, either in Philly or elsewhere. Harden has already done a decent number of interviews this season, mostly to promote a new wine venture, and Harden expresses optimism about his health and his ability to get back in shape in almost all of them. Scattered videos have shown him in the gym or in unknown parts working out, either with friends or Sixers teammates.

The best case scenario for both sides is for Harden to look like an MVP-caliber player again (which was his first year in Brooklyn), and the two sides meet again next summer to come to a long-term deal. term. Though there will still be concerns about how Harden will hold up as he enters 30, a resurgence season would likely push the Sixers higher up the NBA pecking order and quell concerns about decline that have surfaced in recent years. year more or less.

The short-term benefits are almost all on the team’s side. For the Sixers, a 1-plus-1 deal adds some short-term stress if Harden has his eyes on the exit, but it also puts them in a place where the worst-case scenario is paying Harden for the next two seasons and then heading. in the summer of 2024 with the contracts of Harden and Tobias Harris off the books, heaps of cap space at his disposal to build a better group around Joel Embiid. If Harden never gets the old magic back, the hope is that Maxey has progressed enough to be Joel Embiid’s first lieutenant, and that you can find a way to put the right person(s) in his charge. side in subsequent years.

We’ve also seen the Sixers benefit from a roster-building standpoint as a result of Harden’s contract. Had Harden simply decided to take the $47 million and trade he was entitled to claim, the Sixers would have had fewer avenues to improve the basketball team. Sign P.J. Tucker probably would have been impossible were it not for Harden’s decision, and the same can be said for the Danuel House Jr. reunion. As recently as this week, Harden indicated in interviews that he told the Philadelphia front office to use whatever necessary to improve the list and that they simply give him what is left.

Before Harden is canonized as the Patron Saint of Philadelphia, it must be said that whatever short-term sacrifices he’s making financially are secondary to what he has left to offer on the floor, top dollar or not. The reason a pay cut is significant is that the Sixers have committed to an immediate future of Embiid and Harden leading the way for the franchise and Tyrese Maxey in a giant supporting role, and all the rest of the pieces have to fall into place. around that basic idea. . In Embiid’s case, we can see clear as day that he can deliver MVP-caliber basketball on a semi-regular basis. Harden reaching that kind of level, let alone regularly, isn’t exactly a given.

Now that we have the numbers for the Harden deal, we can also start to do a little projection of what’s left to do and what they have left to offer. Napkin math says the Sixers have just under $4 million in space under the apron, giving them wiggle room on two fronts: trades and minimal signings. On the business front, things are effectively where we assumed they would be all along. As a tax-paying team, the Sixers can recoup a maximum of 125% of outgoing salary in a trade plus $100,000, with the additional limitation that they must remain under the apron as a capped team. Franchise-altering trades aren’t likely this year, though never say never.

In theory, the Sixers are going to have room to sign a player to a veteran-minimum contract without going over the cap, though they’d need to clear roster space for that to happen (and a second veteran-minimum deal gets trickier). Keep an eye out for guys with unguaranteed money as we head into the start of next season: Isaiah Joe’s contract isn’t guaranteed unless he’s listed as of Oct 23, Charles Bassey has just $74k of its $1.8 million guaranteed until January 10, 2023 and Trevelin Queen has a partial guarantee of $300k. If the Sixers ultimately decide they need some veteran depth, whether it’s behind Joel Embiid or elsewhere on the roster, those are the guys who make the most financial sense to look closely. Paul Reed also has a non-guaranteed contract, but he is by far the safest bet to stay and play a role this year. As it stands, the Sixers already have 16 players on the roster and will need to cut back to one before the season starts regardless.

(As a review, while there is a pay scale for minimum contracts that depends on years of experience, ranging from zero to 10+ years, any one-year minimum contract for players in at least their third season is partially reimbursed by The league. A player with such a deal will be capped at the equivalent of the veteran’s minimum for a second-year player, currently estimated at about $1.8 million).

Very soon, we’ll hear Harden tell his side of the story once again, once he and his new teammates make his first media appearance this summer. Pompom aside, this mostly puts the arc on Philly’s offseason, one we’ll be discussing and debating in the weeks to come.

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