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Report: James Harden re-signing with 76ers on 1+1 contract with $15M pay cut

Philadelphia 76ers v Minnesota Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 25: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on before the start of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on February 25, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 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. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

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James Harden said nearly two months ago he’d return to the 76ers.

After opting out, Harden – who has said a lot of things, including that he’d opt in – is re-signing with Philadelphia.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The baseline for Harden’s $15 million pay cut is unclear. Harden’s salary last season was $44,310,840. His player-option salary would’ve been $47,366,760. His max salary once he became a free agent is $46,526,382.

But the 76ers reportedly weren’t going to offer Harden a max contract. So, though this is framed as Harden acting altruistically, the team had a say in Harden getting less.

That said, Harden could’ve exercised his player option, maximized his earnings next season and limited Philadelphia’s ability to upgrade its roster. Harden instead taking a lower salary allowed the 76ers to sign P.J. Tucker for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which triggered the hard cap), sign Danuel House and trade for De’Anthony Melton without exceeding the hard cap. The supporting cast around Joel Embiid and Harden now looks far better.

Harden has already gotten something in exchange for opting out and reducing his 2022-23 salary – more total compensation. The 2023-24 player option provides multi-year security he previously lacked.

I wonder whether Harden has an even larger windfall coming. It wouldn’t be shocking if Harden and Philadelphia already have an arrangement for him to opt out and re-sign for a bigger contract next summer.

Coming off a down postseason, Harden is at least giving himself a chance to rebuild his stock before locking in long-term. He might be able to more easily command the max next offseason (though perhaps he could’ve this offseason, albeit at the expense of the rest of the roster).

Harden bouncing back will be paramount to the 76ers achieving their championship goals. The upgraded supporting cast he’s affording Philadelphia is nice. But Harden playing better and Embiid staying healthier in the playoffs are essential.