James Harden has opted out of his $36.6 million option with the Sixers. Meaning he is set to be a free agent this off-season. The news was first reported by Chris Haynes of The Bleacher Report and TNT.
Harden plans to decline $35.6M option to become a free agent and secure a long-term deal, per @ChrisBHaynes— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 17, 2023
He’s interested in teams with ‘a competitive roster’ and wants ‘the basketball freedom’ to be himself pic.twitter.com/OmX5YnAUDs
Also according to Chris Haynes, Harden is looking to get a 4-year deal. He also wants to join a competitive roster, and to have the “basketball freedom to be himself.” Whatever that means.
Harden had an absolute collapse vs the Celtics. In games 1 and 4 he was great. 40 points in both games, including the game-winning shots both times. But he was terrible in 4 of the other games. He was missing shot after shot, throwing the ball away, and not being as aggressive as they need him to be. Playoff collapses have now become a regular thing for the former MVP. As great as he is in the regular season, he rarely steps up when it matters.
So now the question becomes, do the Sixers want to lock him up for 4 years? The initial answer is no. How much do you want to spend on a 33-year-old with a history of choking? The problem is outside him, they don’t have any clear options for a 2nd star alongside Joel Embiid. Tyrese Maxey is great, but perhaps not ready to be that guy. And the free agent market is pretty barren.
The hope would be they can work out a sign and trade. The way NBA contracts work, the Sixers can offer him the most money. That would require a willing James Harden though, and a willing team to send him too. That could limit the Sixers’ options enough that they would not get much back for him. When they did the same thing with Jimmy Butler all they got back was Josh Richardson. But it may be their best option.
James Harden has put the Sixers in a very tough position. They may not be good enough to win without him. And he is not good enough to win with him. Sixers may either have to choose to sign a bad deal with a declining player or try to build a team of solid role players around a single superstar. Daryl Morey and the Sixers’ front office have their work cut out for them.