Here we go again with another episode of should he stay or go. This time featuring the Philadelphia 76ers and former NBA MVP James Harden. The bearded baller opted to pick up the last year on his current contract, which will pay him over $35 million for the 2023-24 campaign. While there have been rumors of a potential Harden trade, some sources say it’s not a foregone conclusion that the 10-time All-Star won’t be in Philly next season. As this may be true, and anything can still happen, the Sixers should be looking to get out of the James Harden business ASAP.
“The 76ers have yet to ‘rule out’ James Harden returning next season,” said Brian Windhorst.
The fact that the Sixers apparently believe they can win by running it back with Harden and most of the same supporting is astonishing. It would seem they are willing to give it another go, with Joel Embiid, and Harden leading the way. Harden isn’t the player he was during his prime, but he’s good. No one’s taking that from him. But he’s never been the guy associated with championships or even making runs to the NBA Finals. Aside from that, one year in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook over a decade ago.
It would be wise to get out from under Harden’s contract now and acquire assets in return if possible. They could also do it at the trade deadline, but by next February, it’ll be less than a half-year rental for the team Philly trades him to. That won’t make sense for most teams, even title contenders. Hardens has been great, and he’s a future Hall of Famer, but at this point, it’s not happening in Philadelphia.
Tyrese Maxey is ready and capable of being the second option on this Sixers squad. Tobias Harris is back for the last year of his deal and has been a good third or fourth option the past few years. Harden could yield multiple players in return to build around Embiid and Maxey. Philly is in a situation where, with, or without Harden, their current ceiling is set based on teams around them. The Sixers will continue to linger as the third or fourth biggest threat in the eastern conference at best.
Despite a disappointing first-round showing in the ‘23 postseason, the Bucks are still a better all-around team than the 76ers. The same can be said for Boston, and while Miami may not have a better roster on paper, the heart, and grit they bring to the court will outshine Philly every time, no matter the seeding. And if the Heat land Damian Lillard, the Sixers can forget about it.
Daryl Morey needs to get over this dream of winning a championship with Harden. It didn’t happen in Houston, and it’s not happening in Philly. Trade him now and get a few good players and draft picks before he walks away for nothing next summer. It’s time to cut the cord before Harden drifts off into the sunset. It’s not like he’s some primetime postseason player. You don’t want to get stuck holding the bag for Harden as he collects while fading into obscurity.
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