Regarding Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden’s impending foray into free agency, Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway took a surprising shot at the soon-to-be-34-year-old former MVP — openly questioning why any team would be willing to spend as much as $50 million on a star Conway feels has wilted during the postseason.
“Harden’s continued wilting when the lights are brightest and his general decline as a player makes it a bit of a surprise teams would be willing to fork over $50 million annually,” Conway wrote.
Through 160 postseason games, Harden has amassed 22.7 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.5 rebounds in his career. Twice, he has reached the Western Conference Finals, falling to the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and 2018. His 2023 postseason stats lined up with those figures pretty closely at 20.3 points, 8.3 assists, and 6.2 assists per game.
Overall, Harden’s career playoff shooting splits (42/33.8/87) are below his regular season splits (44/36/86), and given that he had four games against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals where he shot less than 30%, the criticisms are not completely unfair.
Sixers ‘Have No Choice’ On James Harden’s Free Agency
What’s perhaps even more surprising about Conway’s negative comments about Harden ahead of free agency is the Bleacher Report writer’s admission that the Sixers don’t have viable means to replace the 10-time All-Star should he sign elsewhere this summer.
“The Sixers don’t have much of a choice,” Conway prefaced before saying, “They have no avenue to replace Harden if he walks, and the Rockets’ interest is going to drive the price past the point of his actual market value.”
With no functional cap space due to a bloated roster anchored by Joel Embiid’s $46.9 million salary and Tobias Harris’ $39.2 million cap figure, the 76ers could be forced to pivot and immediately begin another rebuild in the event Harden flees Philadelphia.
“If the Sixers were to lose Harden for nothing, they would have to consider breaking up more of the roster, perhaps by trying to get off Tobias Harris’ contract,” CBS Sports’ Brad Botkin wrote. “Perhaps a Joel Embiid trade would then become an option.”
Rockets Must Make Trades to ‘Entice’ James Harden
According to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, the Rockets will need to make moves before a potential Harden free agency decision to entice “The Beard” to make Houston his NBA home for the second time in his career.
“If Houston is all in on a Harden reunion, it will take some roster reconstructing to entice Harden,” Haynes wrote. “Houston has a promising young core that includes Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Şengün, along with the No. 4 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, but the team tied for the worst record in the Western Conference last season (22-60).”