The Philadelphia 76ers are looking for creative ways to free up money to sign free agents. The easiest way for them to do that is if they can convince James Harden to opt out and negotiate a new contract. And it appears both sides are on board with that plan.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes that Harden will do everything in his power to help the Sixers win a championship. He understands the path toward a title begins in free agency, with the addition of more rotational pieces. That means Harden will likely take a shorter deal while still getting “long-term guaranteed money,” according to Wojnarowski.
“In a perfect world for the Sixers, and I think in James Harden’s mind, opting out of that deal and then negotiating a new contract here when free agency opens it gives the Sixers a lot more financial flexibility to go and improve this team in the offseason,” Wojnarowski said. “He can still get long-term guaranteed money, or certainly guaranteed money, at a very high number over a couple of years by opting out and it gives the Sixers the ability to add to their roster.”
UPDATE: Harden has decided to opt-out for the 2022-23 season and negotiate a new contract to help the Sixers save money while competing for a championship, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. It was a mutually agreed upon move.
Harden has two options: pick up his player option for $47.4 million prior to June 30 or decide to opt out and work toward a new contract for a lesser annual salary like $40 million per year. The latter option would allow the Sixers to sign a player (see: P.J. Tucker) to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception around $10.3 million.
“James Harden has told them he wants to win,” Wojnarowski said. “He’s committed to winning, and I think there’s a playbook here now for the Sixers and James Harden to work together and find a way to get James Harden a new deal in Philly and improve that roster. At the end of the day, I think James Harden is going to be in Philly. He’s going to be there on a new deal.”
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Cap Potentially Increased for 2022-23 Season
The other domino is what happens with the salary cap. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, “word is starting to circle” that it will increase as high as 10% from a projected $122 million. That could give the Sixers another $12.2 million. All the more reason for Harden to take a slight pay cut in the short term.
Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck put together a handy guide of the different scenarios, while taking a stab at what the Sixers might offer Harden. He put that number at $40 million per year.
Again, while granting that this is theoretical, a new Harden contract starting at $40 million annually leaves them with a shade under $11.4 million in cap space. This would allow them to use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception on a player (or players plural) of their choosing, but the use of the full mid-level on a single player would leave them with roughly $1.08 million in cap room under a $155.7 million apron.
Forbes’ Bryan Toporek predicted Harden might opt-out back on June 20 in an in-depth article detailing how the Sixers could sign Tucker. Remember, Tucker’s decision to turn down $7.4 million from the Miami Heat started all the Philly rumblings.
Sixers ‘Poked Around’ Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is expected to stay in Brooklyn after reports surfaced that he has decided to exercise his player option. He wants to return to the Nets and finish what he and Kevin Durant started.
“Reports indicate that the 76ers, Heat and Mavericks had poked around for trade scenarios to acquire Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets,” Charania told the Pat McAfee Show. “But at the end of the day, he made a move where he said, ‘I’m gonna commit. I’m gonna go back to Brooklyn, I’m gonna opt-in.”