All-Star guard James Harden is reportedly expected to re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers on a deal shorter and less lucrative than the max contract.
According to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, sources believe Harden will sign a two-year extension with the Sixers for less than the maximum after opting into the final year of his contract at a salary of over $47.3 million for next season.
While Harden stands to make a lot of money regardless, a max extension would pay him $270.1 million over five years.
The 32-year-old went to Philly last season as part of a blockbuster trade in which Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round draft picks were shipped to the Brooklyn Nets.
Overall, the 10-time All-Star enjoyed another strong campaign, averaging 22.0 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game in 65 contests split between the Nets and Sixers.
From a scoring perspective, Harden deferred to NBA MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and even rising guard Tyrese Maxey at times last season in Philly. That never would have been the case during his nine-year run with the Houston Rockets.
Harden averaged 29.6 points per game in 621 appearances for the Rockets, winning three scoring titles and the 2018 MVP award, but they were never able to break through with a trip to the NBA Finals.
His switch to more of a playmaker than a scorer hasn't gotten the Nets or 76ers deep in the playoffs either, but Harden is undoubtedly a more well-rounded player now than he was earlier in his career.
He also remains a clear favorite of Daryl Morey, who acquired Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder when he was the Rockets general manager and brought Harden in again as Sixers president of basketball operations.
Morey has ignored the noise regarding Harden-led teams not having success in the playoffs, and if he does sign Harden to a new deal, he undoubtedly expects the guard to prove the doubters wrong.
Harden is reportedly already putting in work ahead of the 2022-23 season, as sources told Pompey that Harden has looked good in workouts in the Houston area.
Re-signing Harden would be a major commitment for the Sixers since it would essentially prevent them from making any other big moves outside of trades, as their salary-cap situation would only allow them to sign players to a contract exception or minimum salaries.
The Sixers have been unable to get past the second round of the playoffs during The Process, but a core of Embiid, Harden, Maxey, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and De'Anthony Melton looks great on paper and should make them one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference.