Would James Harden take less than max to stay with 76ers?

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat - Game One
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James Harden will be a free agent this summer, and the Philadelphia 76ers — who gave up a lot to trade for him mid-season — can re-sign him to a five-year, $270 million max contract. Or, Harden can opt into his $47.4 million contract for next season and get an extension off that up to four years, $223 million.

James Harden has not played like a max contract player so far through these playoffs. He’s put up solid counting stats — 18.6 points and 9.4 assists a game, shooting 36.6% from 3 — but he has not dominated games yet the way Philly needs him to if they are going to contend for a title.

Would Harden take a little less than the max to stay in Philly? Maybe. Here’s what Sam Amick of The Athletic said on The Athletic NBA Show podcast (hat tip Real GM).

“When the Sixers got him, their intel was that he would potentially be willing to take less. And obviously, you know, nobody knows him better than Daryl (Morey).”

Less money or fewer years?

Morey and Philadelphia might be willing to pay Harden max money for three years, or three plus an option (likely player option). The fifth year of that contract, Harden’s age 37 season when he would be owed about $61 million, could be ugly. Harden’s contract would be an anchor on the franchise. Maybe Harden wants the security of five years but would take a discount to get them?

This season, Harden has not looked the same, with some of the blame being the hamstring issue that sidelined him — then he played through in the playoffs — maybe never getting fully healthy. Harden simply isn’t getting by defenders and to the rim — drawing fouls — the same way. It’s possible that Harden has a Chris Paul-like change in diet and habits that rejuvenates him and puts him back in the top five players in the game, but the 76ers should not want to bet on that. That doesn’t seem very on brand for Harden, which will make the final year or two of this next contract interesting.

Whatever that contract looks like.