James Harden Exercises Contract Option With 76ers As Trade Rumors Swirl

Photo: Instagram/James Harden

According to reports, James Harden has decided to exercise his contract option for next season with the Philadelphia 76ers, who are currently exploring trade possibilities for the veteran scorer.

A source familiar with the situation revealed to The Associated Press that Harden informed the 76ers of his decision before the midnight deadline. The source spoke anonymously as the decision had not been made public yet.

While the 33-year-old could have become a free agent by declining the option, the Sixers had the advantage of offering him a lucrative four-year, $210 million deal, surpassing any other team's offer by $8 million. Although there is no certainty regarding a trade, the anonymous source stated that Harden expressed a desire to win a championship, something he has yet to achieve in his career, either in Philadelphia or with another competitive team.

Photo: Instagram/James Harden

Philadelphia's recently appointed coach, Nick Nurse, as well as his teammate Tobias Harris, had openly supported Harden's return to the team. However, it seems that the prospect of playing as the second option behind NBA MVP Joel Embiid and pursuing a championship in Philadelphia is now unlikely.

During the previous season, Harden led the league in assists with an average of 10.7 per game. However, his inconsistent offensive performance frustrated Sixers fans and contributed to their elimination in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Boston Celtics.

Harden's scoring outputs varied greatly, with impressive performances of 45 and 42 points in Games 1 and 4 victories respectively, while also having struggles such as going 0 for 6 on three-pointers in Games 2 and 6. He scored only nine points in Game 7 and failed to score in the second half.

While Harden had thrived as a primary scorer in Houston, he has taken a more deferential role to Joel Embiid with the Sixers. If the team fails to re-sign Harden, they could encounter difficulties due to limited salary cap space, making it highly improbable to attract a quality free agent, especially one of Harden's caliber.

Consequently, the Sixers will now focus on acquiring assets through a trade, a pattern that has been a significant part of Harden's career. If a trade occurs, Harden would have to play under his 2023-24 contract as per NBA rules and would become eligible for free agency after the upcoming season.

Harden, a 10-time All-Star and a member of the league's 75th anniversary team, has been involved in previous trades, notably departing from Houston and Brooklyn. In the previous season, he declined his $47.4 million player option with the 76ers and instead agreed to a two-year deal worth $32 million for the 2022-23 season, including a player option for the following season.

This decision resulted in him earning approximately $14.5 million less than his previous contract would have provided.

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Source: NBA

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