Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden intends to decline his $35.6 million player option and enter free agency this summer, Bleacher Report reported.
The 10-time All-Star is looking for a four-year contract with a team that has a ‘competitive roster,’ and he wants the ‘basketball freedom … to be himself,’ per the report.
Harden, 33, averaged 21.0 points, a league-leading 10.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds in 58 games (all starts) in 2022-23.
The report cited a long-term deal with Philadelphia as ‘the only logical option’ and downplayed Harden’s rumored return to the Houston Rockets.
The Sixers lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics on Sunday and fired head coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday. The Beard took to Instagram after ESPN reported that he would most likely not be back with the Sixers if Rivers was still the team’s head coach.
James Harden is set to leave Philly for a more ‘competitive roster’ and ‘basketball freedom’
‘The Beard’ posted a cryptic message on his Instagram story after ESPN reported that the 33-year-old guard would most likely not be back with the Sixers if Rivers was still the team’s head coach. Rivers was fired after Philly lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to Boston
‘Experts really don’t be experts,’ shared the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year.
Harden owns career averages of 24.7 points, 7.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds in 1,000 games (786 starts) with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and 76ers.
The veteran guard took a significant pay cut last offseason, barely three months after his arrival from Brooklyn, to help the Sixers build a competitive roster for this season, signing a two-year, $68.6 million deal which includes a player option for the 2023-24 season.
As things stand, re-signing with Philadelphia seems to be the most logical choice, with the 76ers coming off a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference in the regular season.
But, with Rivers now gone, the dynamic will undoubtedly change in Philadelphia in regards to next season’s plans, with rumors that J.J. Redick could be poached from his basketball analyst role at ESPN.
Harden is also rumored with a move to the Sun Valley, but that remains to be seen, especially if the Suns bring back 40-year-old point guard Chris Paul next season, which remains a possibility, according to Bleacher Report.
If Houston is eyeing to bring Harden back to the Toyota Center, then it will take some roster rebuild to lure the 2018 MVP. The Rockets have a talent young course that has the likes of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun, along with the No. 4 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Houston’s reportedly eyeing to trade for Harden but would the 33-year-old be satisfied with playing on a less competitive team than Philly? (Harden pictured with the Rockets in 2020)
However, the team’s finished bottom of the Western Conference since Harden left for the Nets early on in the 2020-21 season, except for this season when Houston ended up being ranked above the San Antonio Spurs despite both Texas-based basketball clubs holding the same record (22-60).
If Harden was to leave Philadelphia, then the 76ers could explore moving on some hefty contracts on its books, perhaps by trying to trade Tobias Harris, who will be entering the last 12 months of his five-year, $180million deal next season.
Franchise player Joel Embiid could also request a trade if he doesn’t have a second All-Star to help him compete. Harden – a 10-time All-Star did just that for the last two years and Sixers GM Daryl Morey said that there have been no talks with the three-time league champion (2018-2020), who he knows well from their time in Houston together.
Discussions over a long-term deal are certainly a possibility and the Sixers would certainly be interested in bringing him back, if it means keeping Embiid happy.
That said, when Philadelphia needed help down the stretch in its semifinals matchup against Boston, Harden went AWOL. Over the final three fourth quarters of the series (Games 5, 6 and 7), ‘The Beard’ didn’t score a single point in 32 minutes of play. Not at any given point.