Harden's Contract Looms Over 76ers' Offseason

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James Harden
Jan 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) drives to the basket during the third quarter as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends at Toyota Center. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers’ trade for James Harden did not turn the team into a championship contender, as it had hoped. The 76ers were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, falling short of the conference finals for a fifth straight postseason.

Harden was particularly disappointing in the 99-90 Game 6 loss Thursday night that ended Philadelphia’s season. The three-time scoring champ finished with 11 points, nine assists and two turnovers. The 76ers only trailed by a point at half time, and Harden went 0-2 from the field in the game’s final two quarters.

Joel Embiid only averaged 19.8 points per game against the Heat, finishing nearly 11 points below his regular-season average after returning from multiple injuries. 

Harden didn’t come close to performing at a superstar-level with Philadelphia. In 12 playoff games, he averaged 18.6 points, 8.6 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 turnovers per game. Harden shot 40.5% from the field and only scored more than 20 points once against Miami.

Both the 76ers and Harden have big decisions to make for the 2022-2023 season. Harden has a player option worth $47.36 million. If Harden opts out of his contract, Philadelphia can offer him a five-year deal worth around $270 million.

When Philadelphia traded for Harden, it was largely assumed that he would ink a max contract to stay with the 76ers. Following Harden’s disappointing stint in Philadelphia, the 76ers might be very wary of committing too much money to what appears to be a rapidly declining star.

 

 

“I’ll be here,” Harden told reporters when asked if he would opt into his deal. “Whatever allows this team to grow and get better and do the necessary things to win and compete at the highest level.”

In nine seasons with the Houston Rockets, Harden averaged 29.6 points and 7.7 assists per game while shooting 44.3% from the field. Harden’s scoring dipped when he played alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for a year with the Brooklyn Nets, but he did manage to average 27.8 points on 55% shooting in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.

In his age-32 season, Harden shot a career-worst 33% from three-point range. Harden didn’t attempt as many shots at the rim, where he only made 61.5% of his 265 tries. Just two years ago, Harden made 68.3% of his 416 attempts at the rim.

"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," Embiid said after Game 6. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been, as all of us could have been, more aggressive. All of us whether it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys coming off the bench."

Embiid’s four-year, $196 million extension lasts through the 2026-2027 season. Tobias Harris has two years and more than $79 million left on his contract. Tyrese Maxey has two years left on his rookie deal.

Maxey is likely to earn a big contract soon. The young guard arguably outplayed Harden in the postseason, averaging 20.8 points on 48.4% shooting at just 21 years old.

Harden might plan on staying in Philadelphia, but he might not get the contract offer that he wants.


James Harden

Photo: Getty Images/Mitchell Leff

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