After much speculation, Sixers guard James Harden will opt out of his $47.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season, extending his “mutual lovefest” with Daryl Morey, a source confirms to Liberty Ballers.
Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to report the news.
Harden’s sole focus: Win a title in Philadelphia next season. Harden returned to his workout and on-court regimen much sooner than usual this offseason, pouring his full focus on 2022-23 and a championship run. https://t.co/8muicTaJx6— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 29, 2022
With the Harden contract situation settled, the focus will now shift to free agency where the Sixers’ primary target appears to be Harden’s former teammate, P.J. Tucker. The veteran forward opted out of his $7.35 million option with the Heat and will be an unrestricted free agent. Reports have said that Tucker is likely to sign a deal for three years and $30M, which would fit into the non-taxpayer midlevel exception the Sixers should have access to thanks Harden not picking up his option.
The Sixers might also have access to the bi-annual exception, which is projected to be around $4.1M for 2022-23. That should open up way more options to fill out the Sixers’ supporting cast around Harden and Joel Embiid.
The bottom line: Harden’s new deal gives the Sixers way more flexibility than it initially appeared they’d have.
Harden had his fair share of ups and downs as a Sixer. It was fair to wonder if that wonky hamstring was still an issue as he sort of stumbled to the finish after a brilliant start in Philly. In 21 regular-season games, Harden averaged 21 points and 10.5 assists on 60.1 true shooting. The uneven play continued through the postseason as Harden averaged 18.6 points and 8.6 assists on 58.4 true shooting before the Sixers flamed out in embarrassing fashion against the Heat.
There was little doubt though that The Beard would remain in Philly after the blockbuster deal that sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and a pair of first-round picks to Brooklyn. The option decision and subsequent extension were the only question marks.
“I’ll be here, yeah,” Harden said after the Sixers lost Game 6 to Miami. “Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better — and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level.”
When asked if he’d take less money to give the team more flexibility:
“Whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow and put us up there with the best of them.”
Harden was a man of his word.
This “mutual lovefest” helped the Sixers get a more team-friendly deal. We’ll see if it produces a title.
Dave Early and Jas Kang discussed Harden opting out and what it means for the Sixers heading into free agency on the latest podcast on the Liberty Ballers podcast network. You can listen to the episode below: