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Reports: James Harden, 76ers agree to two-year, $68.6 million contract

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 27: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts to a play during the game against the New York Knicks on February 27, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. 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)

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James Harden declined his $47.4 million player option and said he told Daryl Morey to sign who he needed to make the 76ers a contender, then “give me whatever is left.”

That turns out to be about $33 million.

The 76ers and Harden agreed to a two-year contract — with a player option on the second year — for a total of $68.6 million, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was first.

There has been plenty of speculation around the league if this was a wink-and-a-nod deal between Harden and Morey that would allow Harden to opt out and get his big payday next summer. That remains to be seen. It should also be noted that because of the player option on the second year of the contract, Harden has to approve any trade this season.

Morey took full advantage of this opportunity Harden offered. The 76ers signed P.J. Tucker to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, signed Danuel House with the bi-annual exception, and traded for De’Anthony Melton and his salary. Those players add depth, defense, versatility and shooting that could have the 76ers as contenders.

That puts the pressure back on Harden — his 18.6 points, 10.5 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs last season, paired with his poor defense, were not good enough as a top-two option on a contender. If the 76ers are going to be a threat to the Celtics and Bucks, it’s on Harden to be an elite playoff performer, something he has not been throughout his career.

Those free agent signings Harden’s move permitted also triggered the hard cap for the 76ers, and Harden’s $33 million salary leaves them about $3 million under that line, Keith Smith of Spotrac notes. That’s enough to sign a player to a minimum contract mid-way through the season, or have a little wiggle room on a trade. There’s not a lot of flexibility, but there is some.