James Harden, Sixers agree to two-year, $68.6 million deal

March 23, 2022, Los Angeles, California, USA: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers puts up a layup during their NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday March 23, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PI/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

At long last, James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers have agreed on a deal to keep him in the City of Brotherly Love for the upcoming season at the very least. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Wednesday night that Harden and the Sixers have agreed to a two-year, $68 million deal that includes a player option for the 2023-2024 season.

James Harden was in line to accept a $47.4 million player option this season and then sign a max extension. However, he opted against that, taking a pay cut so that the team may go and sign free agents using exceptions they wouldn’t otherwise be able to utilize. With those exceptions (The Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and the Bi-Annual Exception), Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia 76ers added veterans P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

The inclusion of the player option gives James Harden some wiggle room as well in the situation. As much as this decision to sacrifice $14.5 million this season may have been Harden’s, there is also a sizeable possibility that the Sixers’ organization was not exactly thrilled by the concept of signing him to a max deal based on his level of play last season. This player option allows James Harden to turn around next season and earn even more if he can prove that last season was an anomaly and not the new norm.

Whatever his reasons for negotiating this deal, the facts of the case are that James Harden took less money than he was able to, the Sixers signed multiple contributors thanks to it, and according to the bearded star himself, he’s going to be “a lot more aggressive scoring-wise” this season. Fans and media members alike will certainly demand it of him.

What does this mean for the salary situation?

By utilizing the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and the Bi-Annual Exception for Tucker and House, Philadelphia has hard-capped itself against the Tax Apron. The “Tax Apron” is an amount above the Tax Level that cannot be exceeded after using one of these exceptions or after receiving a player in a sign-and-trade. Due to this, the team cannot exceed the 2022-2023 Tax Apron this season (amount of$156,983,000 per HoopsRumors). After this latest move, the Sixers have just over $3 million in space between them and the Tax Apron.

The Sixers also now have 16 roster spots filled, one more than the allowed limit. There are still roughly three months left between now and the start of next season. It’s become clear that a move of some kind will have to be made between now and then. Knowing Daryl Morey’s history, it will likely be via some form of consolidation trade.