James Harden contract refresher and where the 76ers currently stand with the salary cap
We are now weeks away from James Harden’s deadline to make a decision about what he wants to do with his player option. Harden has a $47.4 million player option for the 2022-2023 season and if he wants to exercise it and opt in, he’ll need to do so over the next three weeks. The NBA Draft is June 23 and free agency officially opens on July 1st.
Along with Harden, Danny Green, who likely won’t be back ready to play until 2023, is guaranteed $10 million next year unless he is waived by July 1st. Shake Milton has a $2 million club option for next season, while Charles Bassey, Paul Reed, and Isaiah Joe’s contracts are all non-guaranteed contracts for 2022-2023.
Needless to say, the 76ers have some decisions to make. Shout out Noah Levick from NBC Sports Philly for breaking down all the options on the table beautifully here. They will have a total of 13 players under contract making roughly $153.4 million plus whoever the 76ers choose to select at number 23 this year in the NBA Draft. The luxury tax threshold is projected to be at $149 million with the tax the apron is at $155 million and the salary cap itself around $122 million.
So why the hell does all of that matter?
Because teams who use that bi-annual exception, or use more than the taxpayer mid-level exception, or acquire a player through a sign-and-trade cannot exceed the luxury tax apron.
You’re basically looking at a $4 million difference between the taxpayer mid-level exception ($6.4 million) and the standard mid-level exception ($10.3 million) which is a lot of money when you’re trying to add key free agent pieces to help restructure this 76ers team this offseason.
So What About a James Harden Extension?
James Harden is eligible to make nearly $275 million over the next five years by opting into is player option and then signing a four-year extension. The earliest that could happen would be on August 10th. If Harden opted out of his player option, the maximum value of a five-year extension would be $270 million.
I don’t think Harden will get max contract money and if Harden does in fact pick up his player option, you would have to think a four-year $233 million contract extension with the Sixers would be the next step.
The question remains: How much money is Daryl Morey and the 76ers organization willing to mortgage on an aging James Harden that failed to carry this team when they needed him most against the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs?
Honestly, I don’t see how anyone would pay Harden that much money regardless but I also don’t see him wanting to test free agency where the numbers above will almost definitely be lower than what he can make with the 76ers.
With the Sixers, Harden averaged 21 points in 21 regular-season games. That was his lowest scoring average since he was in his third year on the bench with the OKC Thunder back in 2011. Harden shot 40.2% on field goals and 32.6% from three-point range, the worst percentages of his career.
There’s no way that the Sixers can pay Harden big money. It would be a horrible mistake for a player entering his mid-30’s and could be a franchise-altering mistake.
Ideally, Harden will take his player option and we can talk about an extension sometime next season when we see what type of player he is. Maybe his hamstring was hurting him more than he let on and that’s why he fell off a cliff later in the season? I have no idea but I’m not ready to dish out big money for the version of James Harden we saw at the end of the Miami Heat series.