James Harden is returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, which is not a surprise. However, the deal he signed to return to the 76ers is a surprise.
According to the The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Harden is taking a $15 million pay cut for next season that allowed Philadelphia to elevate its roster — with the sole focus on a championship run in 2023. Harden opted out of his $47 million player option and now plans to sign a new two-year deal with a player option in the second year of the contract.
With the pay cut, Harden will make around $32 million next season, and if he plays well, he can simply opt-out after the season and negotiate a new contract with the 76ers or somewhere else.
This move shows two things; Harden is serious about trying to win a championship in Philly as they added P.J. Tucker and Danuel House thus far in free agency and acquired De’Anthony Melton in a draft-day trade with the Grizzlies.
Secondly, Harden is betting himself. The 13-year veteran wants to show that he can still play at an elite level. With the 76ers, he averaged 21.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per contest in 21 games, but at times, he seemed to have a difficult time getting his own shot at a high level. However, this offseason, it appears Harden is putting in the work to be in better shape.
In the end, it’s all good news for the 76ers.
Harden, a three-time NBA scoring champion (2018-20) is one of four players in league history to have multiple seasons averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and 10 assists. He’s in the midst of the third such season of his career. The only other players to do so more than once are Russell Westbrook (five times) and Hall of Famers Magic Johnson (three times) and Oscar Robertson (five times).