James Harden has declined his player option – which would have paid him $47.4million for the upcoming season – to become an unrestricted free agent, although all signs point to an extension with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since arriving with the 76ers this past season in the trade that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets, Harden's production was up-and-down.
He averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds in his 21 regular season games with his new team, but he also shot a career low 40 per cent from the field while attempting his fewest shots per game (13.6) since coming off the bench with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2011-12.
His numbers in the playoffs dipped even further, averaging 18.6 points, 8.6 assists and 5.7 rebounds while no-showing in the second half of some crucial defeats in their six-game series loss to the Miami Heat.
Harden’s sole focus: Win a title in Philadelphia next season. Harden returned to his workout and on-court regimen much sooner than usual this offseason, pouring his full focus on 2022-23 and a championship run. https://t.co/8muicTaJx6— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 29, 2022
The report about Harden declining his player option, broken by The Athletic's Shams Charania, states his reasoning for declining the option is to extend with the 76ers at a more team-friendly salary that would allow the team to spend the savings on additional talent.
In the report, it is said that Harden has also returned to the 76ers' practice facility to begin his off-season program early, with his "sole focus" being to win a title in Philadelphia in this coming season.
By signing a deal more in the range of three years, $100m, the 76ers would have slightly more wiggle room to sign additional talent, but if they have plans on totally revamping the landscape, it would require trading Tobias Harris ahead of a season where he will be paid $37.6m – more than star Joel Embiid ($33.6m).