PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MAY 12: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at Wells Fargo Center on May 12, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Before today the expectation was that James Harden would opt in to his $47.5 player option. But in a slight shock, he did not do that. Not only did James Harden opt out of it, but he IS  will return on a significant discount. He has agreed to take a pay cut, giving the Sixers some much needed cap room to add more talent around him and Joel Embiid. He will return this season for less money than expected. What his final contract will look like is unknown, but reports are it will be enough to clear space for both the Mid-Level Exception, and Bi-Annual Exception. Adrian Wojnarowski talked about Harden’s mindset heading into these negotiations earlier today.

“In Harden’s mind, opting out would give the Sixers flexibility and helping the team get better. He is committed to winning and wants to show that.”- Adrian Wojnarowski.

The possibility he would take a pay cut  first came about when ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Sixers had been telling agents they planned to use both the MLE, and the BAE, to add two free agents this off-season. The only way they would be able to due that is if they either dumped Tobias Harris’s contract, or if James Harden took this pay cut. Now we know that Harden is going to be taking a pay cut.

One thing they are expected to do with that newfound cap space, is sign PJ Tucker to a 3 year, $30 million deal. The two sides have been attached all off season. Reports are they pretty much already have a deal in place. Tucker is 37, and spent last year with the Heat, before opting out of his player option with them. They also added De’Anthony Melton by trading away Danny Green and the 23rd pick to the Grizzlies. And after this move they should be able to add at least one more player.

It Sounds Like The PJ Tucker Move Is All But Done

Harden’s half a season with the Sixers was uneven last year. He did average 10.5 assists per game, which was 2nd in the NBA. But his shooting stats plummeted. After being a .361 shooter from deep in his career, he shot just .326 from deep with the Sixers. He still managed to score 21pts per game, but while shooting just .402 from the field. And that came to a head in the playoffs with a disappointing 11 pts in their final game, with 0 pts in the 2nd half of that game. The hope is that a full offseason will finally give him time to let his hamstring heal. And once that happens, he would be a little closer to his old self. He will now do so on a much more reasonable deal.

Free agency begins tomorrow. And now thanks to Harden taking this pay cut, the Sixers will have much more flexibility to add needed depth.