James Harden takes a Tom Brady-esque pay cut with the Philadelphia 76ers

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Since officially opting out of his contract just before the start of free agency, the biggest question hanging over the Philadelphia 76ers‘ collective heads has been just how much money James Harden will command on his next contract and over how many years would he command it?

Would Harden take a three-year deal? A three-plus-one? A one-and-one? And what about options? Would the belong to the player or the team?

Well, according to Shams Charania, we officially have the answer, as Harden is reportedly taking $15 million less than his initial $47 million player option and will instead sign a contract worth $32 million in 2022-23 with a roughly comparable player option for the 2023-24 season.

Goodness, if James Harden really wants to make a proper go at a championship with the Philadelphia 76ers, this was certainly the way to do it, as he freed up enough money to secure a pair of key upgrades on the wings.

James Harden’s new contract is great news for the Philadelphia 76ers.

For most NBA players, maximizing monetary gains is the name of the game.

Sure, you’ll see older players like Carmelo Anthony sign for the vet minimum after being max contract players, or watch a big-money guy accept that they were more in the mid-level exception price range but as a general rule, when a player qualifies for a max deal, be that the rookie max, four-year free agent max, or supermax, they typically pick it up without concern for how it could affect the roster around them.

James Harden, to his credit, took things in another direction, a more Tom Brady-esque direction, if you will.

That’s right, for those out of the know, after making a ton of money over his career with the New England Patriots, Brady started to adjust his contract cap numbers in order to maximize the talent around him. He’d kick money into the future, rework his number, and ultimately left millions on the table during his playing career in New England in favor of helping his guys stick around on lucrative contracts.

Harden, despite having the biggest payday of his career a mere opt-in away, chose to take things in a different direction. He met with his biggest and oldest supporter, Daryl Morey, texted with a few former teammates, and accepted a contract number that placed his team well below the salary cap in order to allow for maximum optionality both in free agency and at the 2023 NBA trade deadline.

Without that decision, the Sixers don’t land P.J. Tucker on the full MLE, don’t sign Danuel House to the Bi-Annual Exception- as it wouldn’t have been on the table – and have to make a series of moves that might have still been good but wouldn’t have been of the same caliber.

Would De’Anthony Melton be a Sixer today if Harden opted in? Or would the Sixers have had to trade the pick for a player like Reggie Bullock, as Tucker and House would have been tough additions? While that wouldn’t have been the worst-case scenario, it’s hard to appreciate just how much Melton brings to the table as a two-way guard, especially with a pair of two-way forwards filling out the rotation.

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Will it work? Will James Harden’s decision to put some of his money on the court instead of in the bank prove a savvy, selfless move towards a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy? Or will he forever regret passing up a paycheck with a four as the first number for yet another mid-round playoff loss? Only time will tell but by accepting less, the love he’ll receive from Philadelphia 76ers fans will only continue to grow.