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James Harden: I told 76ers ‘sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over’

Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey and James Harden

CAMDEN, NJ - FEBRUARY 15: Daryl Morey, President of Basketball Operations and James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers speak to the media during a press conference on February 15, 2022 at Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The 76ers signed P.J. Tucker to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which triggered the hard cap). They signed Danuel House with the bi-annual exception (another move that would’ve triggered the hard cap). They added salary by trading for De’Anthony Melton.

All apparently thanks to James Harden.

Harden is reportedly taking a $15 million pay cut on his next contract.

Harden, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

“I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over,” Harden told Yahoo Sports. “This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.”

If the 76ers – who have the regular-season roster limit of 15 players before signing Harden – waive Isaiah Joe’s unguaranteed salary, they would be:

  • $38,164,750 below the hard cap
  • $31,493,750 below the luxury-tax line

Among the questions: Is Harden taking enough of a discount to keep Philadelphia out of the luxury tax or just below the hard cap?

The baseline for Harden’s reported $15 million pay cut is unclear. Based on his salary last season, that’d be $29,310,840. Based on his declined player-option salary, that’d be $32,366,760. Based on his max salary once he became a free agent, that’d be $31,526,382.

According to Harden’s implication, the $15 million is an approximation. The pay cut isn’t based on his salary – but what the 76ers need.

Their roster is clearly stronger with Tucker, House and Melton. Those three add considerable depth and should fit well with Joel Embiid and Harden. There’s clearly strong trust between Harden and 76ers president Daryl Morey from their time together with the Rockets. It’s easier to take a discount when believing management will spend the money wisely. Morey appears to have done so.

Speaking of that trust, another question: What assurances were made to Harden for his following deal? This is only a 1+1 contract. Harden will be up for another contract next year. Did Philadelphia pledge to make him whole on the back end?

The definition of making Harden whole is also tricky. The 76ers reportedly didn’t plan to offer Harden a max contract after his underwhelming playoffs. So, the entire pay cut probably shouldn’t be described as a discount.

But Harden had leverage to get more than he’s getting. After years of signing max extensions, Harden is taking a new tact to help his team win in a salary-cap sport.