The Philadelphia 76ers and James Harden are reportedly working on a shorter-term max contract to keep him in the City of Brotherly Love.
Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer said the Sixers are looking at a three-year contract for Harden, assuming he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Harden has a player option for the 2022-23 season and will make $47.4 million if he opts in. It's more likely that he opts out, becomes a free agent and signs a new deal that gives him long-term security.
The Sixers acquired Harden at the trade deadline from the Brooklyn Nets as part of a trade that also included Ben Simmons. It was the second straight season Harden forced his way out of a team, and for the second straight year things did not work out in the playoffs.
The 2018 MVP shot just 40.2 percent from the field during the regular season after coming over from Brooklyn and then struggled mightily in the playoffs, averaging 18.5 points per game–his lowest postseason average since he became a full-time starter after the 2011-12 season. Harden clearly seemed to struggle with his burst off the dribble, with bothersome hamstring injuries hampering him and taking away some of the explosion that made him a superstar.
The Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
"Obviously, I am sure since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden, but that's not who he is anymore," Joel Embiid told reporters. "He is more of a playmaker."
Disappointment in his scoring struggles aside, the Sixers need to re-sign Harden on a long-term deal to justify sending out Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks in a trade. The team may wind up regretting the latter part of any new deal if Harden can't recapture his past form, but keeping him now is the best avenue to stay in title contention heading into next season.