Three weeks after the start of free agency, James Harden has finally re-signed with the Philadelphia 76ers. The 10-time All-Star declined his player option for the 2022-2023 NBA season and signed a new two-year deal.
Harden’s two-year contract is worth $68.6 million, according to multiple reports. The deal includes a $33 million salary next season and a $35.6 million player option for the 2023-2024 season, ESPN reports.
By choosing to become a free agent this summer, Harden turned down a guaranteed $47.4 million salary in the final year of his previous contract. Harden willingly took a $14.4 million pay cut next season in order for the 76ers to have more salary-cap flexibility to improve the roster.
Before Harden signed his new contract, Philadelphia was able to acquire P.J. Tucker and Danuel House in free agency. Tucker inked a three-year, $33 million contract with the 76ers.
“I had conversations with [president of basketball operations] Daryl [Morey], 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 last week. “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.”
The new contract does offer Harden some security in the event that his play continues to decline. The 76ers traded for Harden in February, and it was largely assumed that he would sign a max contract this offseason, Harden, however, failed to meet expectations in his half-season with Philadelphia.
In 21 regular-season games with the 76ers, Harden averaged 21.0 points per game on 40.2% shooting, his lowest averages in a decade. In 12 postseason games. Harden averaged 18.6 points and 8.6 assists while shooting 40.5% from the floor.
Philadelphia was eliminated by the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. Joel Embiid dealt with multiple injuries in the playoffs after being the runner-up in the NBA MVP race for a second straight year.
If Harden plays like an All-Star alongside Embiid, the 76ers should be a contender in the Eastern Conference.