Free agent James Harden has agreed on a two-year, $68.6M deal, including a player option, to return to the 76ers, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 20, 2022
He reportedly declined a player option that would’ve been worth $47.4 million in order to sign a more team-friendly deal so the Sixers could add a few role players to their roster.
All three may not move the needle much for Philly, but they’re certainly better than nothing.
The team underachieved this past season after acquiring Harden in a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets, losing to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs, as the 2018 league MVP played poorly.
Was it worth it for the 76ers to invest so much money into Harden?
Harden Doesn’t Exactly Seem To Be The Superstar He Used To Be
Just a few years ago, Harden wasn’t just one of the most prolific players in the NBA, he was one of the most prolific players ever.
While playing for the Houston Rockets, he led the league in scoring in three straight seasons from the 2017-18 campaign to the 2019-20 schedule, and during that span, he averaged 33.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.
Harden became the darling of analytics geeks across the nation due to his very high efficiency rate, and he helped take the Rockets to the brink of an NBA championship in 2018.
But injuries sapped the team’s potential, as it narrowly lost to the eventual world champion Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
This past season, Harden went from very efficient to not efficient at all.
He shot just 41.0 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from 3-point range, both of which were much lower than his career marks.
After Philly fought back to tie its series with the Heat at 2-2, Harden shot just 5-of-13 in the pivotal Game 5, and in Game 6, with its season on the line, he took only nine shots in 43 minutes, making just four of them.
In the past, Harden had made a living by drawing contact while shooting jumpers by invading the space of his defender, but the NBA stopped calling defensive fouls on such actions this past season.
Was that rule change the reason for Harden’s drop in production, or was there another reason?
Will Harden Return To Form In 2023?
Some have speculated that the hamstring injury Harden suffered in the spring of 2021 limited him during the 2021-22 campaign and that it was the sole reason for his poor shooting percentages.
James Harden has mentioned multiple times now how his hamstring bothered him last year.
— RB (@RBPhillyTake) July 18, 2022
But others feel Harden is simply getting old.
James Harden acting like he's coming back from an Achilles or ACL injury it's a dam hamstring injury and that doesn't take a year to heal. You're washed let's just be honest
— Stephen Curry's Burner➐ (@StephGotNext4) July 18, 2022
He will turn 33 in late August, which is not an age in which superstars see a sharp decline if they’re taking good care of their bodies.
Perhaps the saving grace of Harden’s new contract is that it’s only a two-year deal with the second year being a player option.