The Philadelphia 76ers and James Harden have $47.4 million question to answer in the offseason and it could greatly impact the way the team builds their roster this summer.
In acquiring Harden from the Brooklyn Nets for Ben Simmons, the expectation was that star guard would be in Philadelphia for the long haul. What was not expected was the former superstar losing a step and putting up 20/10 on poor shooting numbers. While his playmaking is still top tier, it doesn’t seem like he’s capable of putting up consistent scoring numbers game in and game out.
With his nearly $50 million player option looming, he’ll have to decide if he wants to opt in with Philly for another year and another big pay day, or if he’ll want to roll the dice and hit the open market.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst believes the decision has already been made.
Will Harden Opt In?
Speaking on the May 5 episode of First Take, Windhorst said he’s “extraordinarily likely” Harden will pick up his player option of $47.4 million with the Sixers.
What he says after that might be of more interest to fans.
“I think right now I’d say it’s extraordinarily like that Harden’s picking up that option and then negotiating with the Sixers on what sort of deal it’s going to be,” he said. “The real issue here is is Harden still a max player for anybody? If you are expecting him to be the Harden of three years ago, and that’s what a max player is, I just don’t know that’s a responsible way to look at it.”
It’s no question that Harden has declined since his days in Houston, but he’s still shown flashes of brilliance. His next contract will likely be one that takes him to the end of his playing days, and he’ll do what he can to maximize that. However, that doesn’t mean the Sixers will be forced to pay him.
“If you’re Philly, I’m wondering if a responsible way to look at this is – our lead player’s Joel Embiid, our second star is gonna be Tyrese Maxey and James, can we find a contract for you that values you as a supporting star, a third option?”
If the Sixers fizzle out in the second round without the services of Joel Embiid and Harden running the show, then this question might be something that has to be answered very soon.
Can Harden be a Third Option?
Before Harden came to Philadelphia, Maxey was the clear second option behind Embiid and he played the role quite well.
Harden has since taken that over from him, but Maxey is clearly the future of the team while Harden will continue to decline. It’s only a matter of time before Maxey surpasses him with his skillset, and some fans argue that it could be happening very soon, or it has even already happened.
Dumping big money into a third option will be a tough pill to swallow, especially since that’s essentially what is going on with Tobias Harris at the moment. However if the Sixers want to maximize their championship window with Joel Embiid, that might be what’s necessary.