James Harden has declined his player option of approximately $47.4 million for the 2022-23 season, a source confirmed Wednesday to NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the news.
Asked after the Sixers' season-ending loss to the Heat whether he'd exercise his option, Harden said, "I’ll be here, yeah. Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better — and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level.”
As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski notes, Harden would enhance the Sixers' options in free agency by signing a new contract with a salary significantly under $47.4 million in Year 1.
Per Spotrac, the Sixers have 12 players under contract and an active roster cap of about $104.3 million with Harden declining his option. With an updated salary cap projection of approximately $123.7 million, Spotrac's Keith Smith cites a new projected luxury tax apron of a shade under $157 million.
That's an especially relevant number for the Sixers because teams that use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, use the bi-annual exception, or acquire a player through a sign-and-trade cannot exceed the apron. We'll see exactly how negotiations pan out, but Charania writes in his story that "lowering Harden's salary from $47.4 million allows (Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey) to offer free agents the $10.5 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception without any other moves, flexibility Morey would have had difficulty creating by trading players already on guaranteed contracts."
There's been plenty of smoke linking the Sixers to Heat veteran P.J. Tucker, a former teammate of Harden's and small-ball center for Morey on the Rockets.
Though he didn't delve into any specifics, Morey said after his draft-night trade for De'Anthony Melton, "As you guys have heard, it’s a mutual lovefest (with Harden), so we feel like we’ll work it out.”
Free-agent negotiations are set to officially begin at 6 p.m. ET Thursday.