The Philadelphia 76ers shaped the pieces ancillary to their core with a pair of signings to kick off the NBA’s free agency frenzy on Thursday, adding forward PJ Tucker and wing Danuel House Jr.
Both players are former teammates of Sixers free agent guard James Harden; yet, Philadelphia didn’t re-up the fulcrum of those Rockets teams in the opening minutes of the summer’s sweepstakes.
But a little less than 2 days after the opening bell, it appears as though Harden’s piece is prepared to slide into the puzzle Philadelphia has created:
Free agent star James Harden is meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers today in the Hamptons to begin negotiating his new multiyear deal, league sources tell @YahooSports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 2, 2022
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark confirmed and added a bit of context to Haynes’ information:
Source says James Harden and his representative & PJ Tucker and his representative are meeting with Sixers owners and management in the Hamptons today and this weekend. James and his rep will finalize his contract with Sixers hopefully this weekend pic.twitter.com/Qm9GJfwkvc
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) July 2, 2022
Up to this point, the veteran experience of the Sixers’ front office has shown through. Philadelphia recognized that it was going to need the Non-taxpayer Mid-level and Bi-Annual exceptions to accomplish what it was looking to do in free agency.
With Harden willing to take a pay-cut for the betterment of the team, the Sixers took care of their supporting cast first and table Harden’s negotiations for the remainder of the space below the NBA’s tax apron.
Now, it seems Harden will have a decision to make.
Based upon salary projections for the 2022-23 season, and reporting that Harden’s annual salary is expected to be somewhere in the “mid-30s”, he’ll have a few options.
Harden could take a deal giving him $35 million or less in 2022-23. That would give the Sixers a rough ceiling of $2,764,368 of space below the apron with which they can operate to add veterans on minimum contracts or make trades.
Alternatively, the highest figure Harden projects to be able to sign for in 2022-23 is $37,760,000. That first-year salary would give the Sixers approximately $4,368 below the apron, limiting Philadelphia strictly to trades that would see them match salaries or take on less money than they’re sending out.
Regardless of whether Harden takes the lower boundary, the upper boundary, or something in the middle, what he has done to this point has been noble. Rather than pick up his player option worth roughly $47.4 million, Harden recognized that his best chance to win a title was to take significantly less money on a new contract so that Philadelphia could reshape the supporting cast around him and Joel Embiid.
For that, he deserves some commendation. But ultimately, it means nothing if Harden can’t pick up his share of the slack on the court.
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