Since the Sixers traded Ben Simmons for James Harden, the three-time scoring champion, 2018 MVP, 10-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA, all-time top 75 and future Hall of Famer, we’ve been wondering what The Beard’s next contract could look like.
Well, the one thing that’s not on that incredible resume is a championship. And it appears that’s what Harden, 33, has prioritized in structuring his next deal, which appears to be at least $15 million less than the salary he could have earned himself by choosing this $47.4 million option for 2023.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Harden plans to take a $15 million pay cut, in the first year of a two-year contract with a player option, in the second year:
Everyone around Harden understood the focus on his training schedule this offseason and a championship goal for 2022-23. His close relationships with members of the organization, including Michael Rubin and Daryl Morey, played a major role in building trust between the two parties. https://t.co/q1eDY9xrDy
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 8, 2022
The deal is probably the last and only Major offseason salary move for Philadelphia (unless they really surprise us with a blockbuster trade). That basically means he’ll be here for at least one more season and we can come back to that in the summer of 2023.
Harden officially declined his option last month, and as Shams noted, the move allowed Daryl Morey and Elton Brand to use the precious wiggle room found under the luxury tax apron to sign a pair of Harden’s former Miami Heat teammates (and friends) before PJ Tucker and Utah Jazz swingman Danuel House. These two players were Harden’s teammates on the Rockets in the past.
Harden, it has been reported, traveled to the Hamptons last weekend with Sixers Brass to negotiate the terms of that deal. And by most accounts, the negotiations became extremely hostile, contentious and heated:
Just kidding, apparently this was a major vibe session and as Shams noted, the trust between Harden, Morey and Michael Rubin is what helped facilitate such a first team move.
One of my favorite parts of the whole evening was Tyrese Maxey seemingly operating along the party (thrown by former 76ers minority stake owner Rubin), in stealth mode, while his star teammates danced for the cameras cell phones:
I’m dying for Harden, Tucker and Embiid to all be on stage with Meek and Maxey was just hanging out in the crowd https://t.co/qEpg4keUVJ
— Real Hooper Pill Trillium (@TrillBroDude) July 4, 2022
“I’ll be here…anything that allows this team to grow and improve and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level,” Harden said in May, following the team’s brutal loss to at the Miami Heat in the second round. Eastern Conference playoffs.
A few weeks ago, when he felt like he was definitely going to sign up, fans wondered about those comments. Has he changed his mind? Did the property prefer to save money on the road rather than during the Embiid premium? How many years will he be?
Apparently James meant every word of that statement. And now Joel Embiid can play with Tucker, the #dawg he recently mentioned he needed someone like.
“You look at someone like PJ Tucker,” Embiid said in May. “A great player, but it’s not about knocking down shots. It’s about what he does, whether defensively or bouncing the ball.
If Harden had chosen to participate, he could have either extended his contract later in the summer (waiting until August would have allowed him to earn 8% annual raises) or “bet on himself” on a contract. a year while returning to the subject in 12 months. The fact that he chose one of these likely more lucrative paths would have made landing Tucker and House (or anyone who has ever received similar sized offers) extremely difficult, as described our Bryan Toporek.
Had Harden elected to participate, the maximum the Sixers could have offered free agents was a single $6.3 million taxpayer mid-level exception, and possibly a veterinary minimum wage. Even the TPMLE would not have reached the amount that some useful actors earn:
Caleb Martin has agreed to a three-year contract worth around $20.5 million to return to the Heat, per source.
Heat using the entire $6.5 million taxpayer mid-tier exception on Martin.
—Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) July 6, 2022
The way it shook, Philadelphia spent nearly $15 million on Tucker and House, and they were able to do it from the start of free agency, avoiding a long limbo where the best wings available would surely have settled elsewhere. . And in a roundabout way, it came straight out of Harden’s water-themed cargo pockets.
In fact, $15 million is actually more than the exact amount he had to give up in the first year, to create wiggle room for Tucker and House. We’ll wait for more information, but it’s possible the Sixers will have some extra room under the apron to maneuver forward.
This whole process should be considered a huge win for this organization because there are dozens of ways it could have gone wrong.
The most important (and hilarious):
Tobias Harris will now officially be the Sixers’ highest-paid player in 2022-23.
—Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) July 8, 2022
Not too long ago, we heard that Harden was very likely to participate and that the team could structure a three-year maximum salaried executive earning Harden around $151 million through 2025. That’s much less money in the first year than that and also prompts Harden to return to the All-NBA status he held before all those hamstring injuries first surfaced in March 2021.
(Fair warning, a player option next summer also means there will be rumors of rival suitors over the next season as well as the occasional body language expert looking for signs of contention.)
Last winter, we heard hilarious rumors that Harden “forgot” to go for his massive player option for 2023. Imagine forgetting to basically cash a check for $50 million? If this Sixers team wins a title, this story will only become a bit of joyous Philadelphia sports folklore.
If we put him for about $32.4 million this season and $35 million next, in a sense he’s basically “trading” $15 million now for a little bit of disaster insurance for the year. next. I expect him to retire again in 12 months. But I strongly suspect the Sixers would have happily extended him for two more seasons if he preferred, so my read is that Harden wanted to bet he can get back into shape after a health summer.
I will be there. This allows this team to grow. Harden’s words and actions provide great ideas for the 2023 season mantras.