Another day, another update to the James Harden free agency saga. Our latest updates come from The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey, who reported that some sources within the Sixers organization feel more optimistic that The Beard will stay put in Philly:
“For the Sixers, a return to Philadelphia doesn’t seem as bleak as it did a month ago. There’s varying levels of belief that Harden could re-sign with the Sixers depending on who you talk to. Sources have said the Sixers are more optimistic that he’ll re-sign. Perhaps that’s why there’s a report that Harden is “giving renewed consideration to staying put.”
However in May, the overwhelming belief among NBA executives and league sources was that Harden would rejoin the Houston Rockets this summer.”
This update is in line with what Marc Stein reported a few days ago, and it seems to be the growing consensus among NBA Insiders. Pompey went on to mention what the plan might be for Harden, if he indeed re-signs with the team:
“Harden could receive a maximum salary of $210 million over four years with the Sixers, who have his Bird rights. He could make up to $201.7 million with another team. But with Harden at 33 years old and prone to struggles in the postseason, it’s unlikely any team would want to max him out for four years.
The Sixers are not willing to hinder the team’s short- or long-term future by overpaying for Harden. The prevailing thought is a deal in the two-year range would be ideal for the 14-year veteran.
If so, could his decision ultimately come down to a team willing to guarantee at least a third year?”
A two-year deal for Harden would be a lot less intimidating than a four-year one, especially with the new CBA on the horizon that penalizes teams that spend big. It keeps the Sixers very competitive in the short-term and doesn’t hinder long-term flexibility. For perspective, the only Sixer currently under contract in two years (in the 2025-2026 season) is Joel Embiid. We can assume a Tyrese Maxey extension will also be in place by then, but their books are clean beyond that.
If the business talks hinge on a third year, it’s possible the middle ground might be a partially guaranteed third year — similar to what the Suns did with Chris Paul’s contract. CP3’s third year only had a guarantee of $15.8 million, followed by a final year that was non-guaranteed. If the Sixers wanted to move on from Harden then, they likely could.
It certainly seems like momentum has shifted in James Harden rumors. We’ll soon know the truth to where the Beard ends up, with thr NBA Draft coming up this week that will foreshadow which directions key teams are moving towards.