James Harden Rumors: 76ers' Intel Was That SG Would Potentially Take Less on Contract

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 4, 2022

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 02: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles up the court against the Miami Heat during the first half in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at FTX Arena on May 02, 2022 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers were reportedly of the mind that superstar guard James Harden would possibly be willing to take less than a max contract extension when they acquired him from the Brooklyn Nets in February.

Sam Amick recently said the following regarding Harden's contract situation on The Athletic NBA Show (h/t RealGM.com): "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 [Sixers president of basketball operations] Daryl [Morey]."

Harden can become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season if he declines his $47.4 million player option for 2022-23. He would then be eligible to sign a five-year, $270 million contract with Philly.

When it was determined that things were no longer working out for Harden in Brooklyn as the third star alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, he was dealt to Philadelphia for a significant package that included two first-round picks, guards Ben Simmons and Seth Curry and center Andre Drummond.

The move didn't pay immediate dividends for the Nets, as Simmons didn't play at all during the 2021-22 season because of a back injury and mental health concerns. Brooklyn was subsequently swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.

Meanwhile, Harden helped the Sixers beat the Toronto Raptors in the first round in six games, and his importance to the team has reached a new level with center and NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid out with a concussion and fractured right orbital bone.

In 21 regular-season games for the Sixers, Harden averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists, 7.1 rebounds, 2.2 three-pointers made and 1.2 steals while shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from beyond the arc.

The 10-time All-Star and one-time NBA MVP hasn't been quite as good in seven playoff games, averaging 18.6 points, 9.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 three-pointers made and 1.0 block, while shooting 40.2 percent from the floor and 36.6 percent from deep.

Critics have long knocked Harden for his playoff performances, and while he is once again performing below expectations, there is still time to right the ship.

His showing in a 106-92 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the 76ers' second-round playoff series wasn't particularly encouraging, though.

The Sixers turned to Harden to be the go-to guy with Embiid out, but he could only muster 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, five assists and five turnovers.

Given that 21-year-old guard Tyrese Maxey averaged 17.5 points per game in just his second NBA campaign this season, it is fair to question if letting Harden walk and addressing other areas of need would be a path worth exploring for the Sixers.

Considering that Morey was the one who brought Harden to the Houston Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder and watched him become an elite offensive guard thereafter, however, he may not be willing to part ways with The Beard.