Sixers: 5 biggest questions entering the offseason

James Harden, Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
James Harden, Joel Embiid, Sixers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Sixers’ biggest offseason questions: What does James Harden’s contract look like?

James Harden went AWOL in the Sixers’ Game 6 defeat. Harden has a history of postseason no-shows and his clear deterioration athletically is a real concern moving forward. The 32-year-old is due for a contract extension soon. The question is, will he sign one this summer, or will he pick up his $47.4 million player option?

There’s no bad outcome here. The Sixers are basically committed: there’s no way Harden just walks. And, he probably shouldn’t. Philadelphia is Harden’s best chance to compete right now, and for Philadelphia, Harden clearly made them a better team. We can lament his poor closing effort all we want, but the Sixers don’t get to Game 6 of round two without Harden. He’s still quite good. Should the Sixers have traded for Harden? Maybe not, but at this point, the Sixers have to see it through.

If Harden picks up his option, then it’s pretty simple. The Sixers will pay out the final year of his contract and they don’t have to worry about the extension immediately. They can wait and see where he’s at next season, and if his play deteriorates further, the Sixers can consider exploring the trade market with his (massive but movable) expiring contract.

If Harden wants an extension, then it’s a matter of how much, and for how long. Harden has stated multiple times that he is willing to take less than the supermax to help the Sixers win. Is that true? It’s an admirable notion, but most players take the money — and rightfully so. Harden has earned his respect over the years and Philadelphia would be hard-pressed to pay him far below the max, even after this postseason.

There’s some financial wiggling Morey can do to re-sign Harden and sign another max or near-max star if he manages to clear the books (meaning, he gets rid of Harris and Green). He could also re-sign Harden, dump Harris, and theoretically sign meaningfully depth pieces. But, the much likelier outcome is: Harden picks up the option/re-signs, Harris stays put, and the Sixers spend all summer working the margins.

“Run it back” is essentially what’s probably going to happen. The Sixers can run back the same core four and still hope to compete — especially if Embiid stays healthy and Harden looks better after a summer of proper training — but Morey is going to have to step up here.

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