With draft day now behind us, fans of the Philadelphia 76ers currently have nothing exciting to look forward to, making the James Harden “will he/won’t he” resign story the only game in town. Since March, the narrative has been that Harden discussed a return to his beloved city of Houston to reunite with the Rockets. Right now, it seems more and more likely that Harden’s management team leaked it to put some heat on the Sixers. The Rockets are rebuilding with a youth movement and a coach who has been known to play star players who don’t play defense, so they don’t seem to have any interest in bringing him back.
So what exactly is Harden’s leverage with the 76ers?
First, if Harden wants to take a smaller deal to chase a ring with a contender, I would understand. He has made a ton of money in his career and was named one of the 75 best players in NBA history. The ring is the only thing missing from his resume. On the other hand, if he just wants to accept a big bag of money to play for a non-playoff team and be “the man,” then he’s not the kind of player we want next to Joel Embiid. Harden has spent his career in the crosshairs of the question: “Is he more interested in his stats or serious about winning?” If he’s not going to do whatever it takes to get a championship, then the question is answered once and for all, and we don’t need guys like that here.
The real question here is Harden’s worth. He wants to be paid a SuperMax contract near 4 years, 210 million dollars and is trying to use the threat of leaving to get it in Philadelphia. But is there really any threat here? If you asked the Sixers organization, they’d probably tell you they’d prefer to pay Harden more like 2 years, at 35 million per, but that’s just my personal speculation. The fact is, there’s no reason to overpay Harden because no other teams are knocking on his door.
Harden will be 34 in August, has lost two steps, has had injury problems the last three years, is ball-dominant and has recently hinted that he would like to have the ball more and have more control of the offense. On the contrary, Nick Nurse has publicly stated that he wants more team ball and less one-on-one play, so that should be interesting to watch. Harden is still a very good player, but he’s definitely not a SuperMax-level guy anymore.
There’s no reason the Sixers should overpay Harden for past excellence.
Where else would Harden go? There are no teams that are in serious championship contention, or even in the next tier down like Philly, that would be willing to give Harden a SuperMax and the reins of their offense. Zero. Celtics, Nuggets, Bucks, Suns? Nix. Go down the list and the only team that comes close is LeBron’s Lakers, and even they would have to drop most of the bench depth that made them so dangerous in the playoffs to add Harden’s salary. So he has no better option than the Sixers if he is serious about winning but still wants the big money.
What if he just wants the money, be the man and play basketball regardless of losing? It is also difficult to find suitors for him there. All the lottery teams are trying to develop their young talent and have no interest in having a fading star gobbling up a quarter of their cap space. Why would the Rockets, Pistons, Hornets, Blazers, Magic, etc. want to bring a questionable ego with an over-inflated payroll into their locker room at the expense of growing their young talent?
Are there any B-level teams last year that could grow into a contender by adding Harden? His style of play and defensive disinterest make him a poor fit for places that want players to buy into their system, such as the Clippers, Knicks, Heat and Warriors. It’s hard to imagine Memphis wanting to pair Harden’s nightclub habits with Ja Morant’s nightclub habits. So how exactly is the market for James Harden?
The simple answer is that it simply does not exist under the terms he wants. There is absolutely no other team out there that will give him $30+ million for four years and complete control of the offense, so there is no reason for the 76ers to either. A four-year SuperMax deal would be stupid and detrimental to the team, and Daryl Morey, while loyal to Harden, is not stupid.
If Team Harden is playing poker, it’s high time to call their bluff. Unless he’s willing to take a pay cut far more significant than the one he accepted this year, he has no other takers. If he wants to swallow his pride and accept something close to a two-year, seventy million dollar deal, this is the only place he’ll get it. There is no need for the Philadelphia 76ers to offer James Harden more than that. There is no market out there for Harden and he really has nowhere else to go.
- Published on 24/06/2023 at 12:00
- Last updated 23/06/2023 at 21:25