James Harden Could Be Lured Away From Sixers on $200 Million Deal: Analyst

James Harden

Getty James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers

With the offseason not too long from now, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report previewed multiple players’ upcoming free agencies, including James Harden.

While talking about Harden’s future, Pincus said paying Harden immediately won’t be an issue for the Philadelphia 76ers, but could be in the long term.

“The franchise can afford a significant tax bill in the immediate term since Tobias Harris will come off after this next season (heading into his final year at $39.3 million). Still, keeping payroll down won’t be easy, with over $50 million per season committed to Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey expecting a healthy extension this offseason,” Pincus said.

Pincus said that the Sixers may prefer offering Harden a shorter deal, but if the Houston Rockets are willing to offer more years, that could lure him away.

“A shorter deal for Harden may appeal more to the franchise, but that may drive him to look elsewhere, including a potential return to the Houston Rockets. Houston has the cap room to offer a four-season $201.7 million maximum contract. While Philadelphia can beat that, that may be more than the franchise is willing to provide—and with no state taxes in Texas, Harden may net more with the Rockets.”

Pincus finished by saying that the Rockets have more cap room, but no one as good as Joel Embiid, which could play a factor in his final decision.

“Compared to Philadelphia, Houston has greater financial flexibility but no one on par with Embiid. But then, does Harden enjoy what he has with the 76ers, or is he looking to return to a comfortable Houston environment?”

Charles Barkley Calls Out James Harden, Joel Embiid

Barkley called out Harden and Embiid for their play in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics, believing Embiid’s inclusion hurt Harden’s production along with other Sixers.

“I do not like that the fact that (Embiid) was in there for a couple of reasons,” Barkley said, via NBA on TNT. “I think James plays differently when Joel’s out there. He’s got a mental block. He’s not nearly as aggressive. It was night and day from Game 1 to Game 2 because they feel like, and rightfully so, they have to get Joel going, but I think it hurts (Tyrese) Maxey. I think it hurts Tobias Harris. (Doc Rivers) said there’s no ball movement. That’s because Joel has the ball. They play at a much more freelance pace out when he’s not out there.”

While Barkley believes they’re a better team with Embiid, he believes the Sixers were better off resting him in Game 2.

“Now, are they a better team (without Embiid)? No, but I thought they should have gave him a couple more days and see what works.”

Joel Embiid Singles Out James Harden

After winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Embiid singled out Harden for the impact he’s had on him since becoming teammates.

“James is, man, I don’t even know where to start. I think since he’s been here, I think he won’t tell me that, but I think he kinda made his goal for me to be the MVP. He’s given up a lot, and obviously, I’ve always said it, he’s the best playmaker I’ve ever played with, and he’s the best playmaker in probably the NBA,” Embiid said.

Embiid also talked about how much Harden has helped him and how supportive he has been.

“He’s been helping me as far as getting me easy opportunities, whether it’s scoring the ball or just be a better basketball player on and off the court. He was just extremely happy for me, just like they (the Sixers players) all were, and that meant a lot for me. That meant a lot to me to know that your teammates care about you as much as I care about them,” Embiid added.