The new deal is for two years, with a player option in the second year, and is worth $68.6 million.
While Harden left some money on the table by declining his $47.4 million player option for next season ($14.4 million to be exact), he did not sacrifice much else.
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
The deal could wind up being a win-win for both Harden and the 76ers.
With Harden taking a pay cut for the upcoming season, Sixers GM Daryl Morey was able to flesh out the supporting cast.
Morey was also able to trade Danny Green for De’Anthony Melton on draft night, bringing in a more youthful perimeter defender and floor spacer with some ball-handling ability.
Harden’s actions have backed up all his talk of wanting to win whatever the cost.
Both on and off the court, Harden has improved this 76ers team.
3. Playoff-Ready Roster
The most obvious way Harden has helped the 76ers this offseason is by taking that pay cut.
Had Harden simply opted in and taken the $47.4 million, Morey would have been restricted in the avenues he could take to better the roster.
He would not have had access to the non-taxpayer midlevel exception and the full biannual exception.
Meaning neither Tucker nor House would be Sixers right now.
This could be a big deal because both players, theoretically, significantly help the 76ers come playoff time.
So far this off-season Daryl Morey has added:
De’Anthony Melton (2 yr, $8 mil per)
PJ Tucker (3 yr, ~$11 mil)
Danuel House (2 yr, $4.2 mil)
Trevelin Queen (2 yr, $1.7)
While only losing:
Pretty damn good and don’t think he is done yet
— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) July 11, 2022
In the latest second-round exit by the Sixers, they clearly lacked that edge and toughness needed in the postseason.
Too many of their supporting cast were “one-dimensional” players, meaning they were good at offense or defense, but not both.
In the heat of the playoffs, you need guys who are at the very least not liabilities on one end of the court.
Tucker just got done proving he is one of those guys against the 76ers.
He was consistently out-working Sixers players to loose balls and rebounds.
House has postseason experience from his time with Harden back with the Houston Rockets.
He can play perimeter defense and knock down threes to space the floor.
Harden opting out of his player option to open extra space for Morey was extremely beneficial.
The moves that Morey was allowed to make because of it should set up the Sixers to be more ready come playoff time.
2. Harden Helping Embiid
The other two ways Harden has helped improve the Sixers will be more evident on the court.
Namely, his budding two-man game with Joel Embiid.
The on-court pairing offensively was dangerous basically right from the start.
In their first game together, they combined for 61 points, 18 rebounds, and 15 assists.
Embiid shot 10-18 from the field, 3-5 from deep, and got to the line 13 times, sinking 11.
In the 22 games after Harden suited up for Philly, Embiid averaged 32.6 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.
He shot 50.8% from the field, 37.3% from three, and 81.8% from the line on 13 attempts per game.
In the 46 games before that, Embiid went for 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.
He shot 49.5% from the field, 36.9% from three, and 81.3% from the line on 11.3 attempts per game.
Harden just makes things easier for Embiid.
Harden-Embiid pick and roll is too deadly… Best duo in the league??
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) February 27, 2022
Joel no longer had to do everything on offense and their pick-and-roll game set him up with easy looks.
Across 1,214 possessions together, they had a +15.8 differential – good for the 99th percentile per Cleaning the Glass.
In the lineup that featured them the most (660 possessions), they had a +20.3 differential.
The two-man game of Harden and Embiid ran roughshod over opponents last season even with minimal practice time and Harden being less than 100%.
A full offseason together and a healthier Harden could be devastating for the league.
1. Maxey’s Mentor
Harden has also had a positive impact on Tyrese Maxey, the 76ers’ 21-year-old budding star.
The 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft showed some flashes of brilliance during his rookie year.
But he exploded onto the scene in year two.
With Ben Simmons refusing to play, Maxey took full advantage.
As the full-time starter, Maxey averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 assists per game on .485/.427/.866 shooting splits.
After shooting 30% from deep on 1.7 attempts per game the year before, he knocked down an astounding 42.7% of his 4.1 triples per game in year two.
His raw speed and finishing ability made him a force in transition.
While offseason work on his ability to create and make his own shot made him dangerous in the half-court.
If Maxey was great before Harden came over, he was sensational after.
Harden and Maxey working with Sam Cassel! pic.twitter.com/YsDZxNYUrW
— 𝖙ʀɛʋօʀ🪁 (@TuziSZN) July 7, 2022
In 51 games before Harden suited up, Maxey averaged 16.9 points and 4.6 assists per game.
He shot 46.9% from the field, 39% from three on 3.6 attempts per game, and 87.1% from the line.
In 24 games after Harden donned the red and blue, Maxey jumped up to 18.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.
With Harden handling lead ball-handler duties, Maxey had less responsibility to run the offense.
He shot 52.3% from the field, 48% from three on 5.3 attempts per game, and 85.3% from the line.
Harden is a master at creating open looks for teammates and Maxey took full advantage.
Another offseason working together could lead to a third leap from Maxey.