Now, that’s also proving to be false.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden is declining his $47.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season and intends to return on a contract in free agency that gives the team financial flexibility to bolster the roster, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 29, 2022
Harden’s salary next season will be lower than if he opted in:
- Player-option salary: $47,366,760
- Max salary as a free agent: $46,526,382
After Harden’s underwhelming playoffs, the 76ers reportedly won’t offer him a max contract.
More plausibly, Harden will take a far smaller pay cut that allows the 76ers to use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception – maybe on P.J. Tucker. If over the hard-cap line, Philadelphia could use only the taxpayer mid-level exception, which might not be enough to lure Tucker from the Heat or other suitors.
That possibility is why reports of Harden opting in and signing an extension never made sense. With his next deal to be sub-max regardless, Harden can take his pay cut next season – when it’d most help the 76ers – and still get the same total compensation over the length of the deal.
Harden also satisfies his desire to become a free agent for the first time in his career.
All signs point to him returning to Philadelphia. But with Harden – who has proven to be volatile – unencumbered by a contract, everything is open to him in unrestricted free agency.