Daryl Morey, James Harden Are Playing a Dangerous Game in Philly

By: The Trend Wire

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James Harden, Daryl Morey, and the Philadelphia 76ers may have agreed to a multiyear strategy to dodge the rules and build a title challenger. 

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An NBA optimist would say both sides are working toward a shared goal, despite illegal planned arrangements.

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Harden has agreed to re-sign with the Sixers on a two-year, $68.6 million contract, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

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More than one executive anticipates Harden to opt out of his last year at $35.6 million to sign for $46.6 million.

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Some believe the Sixers rewarded Harden for helping Morey, president of basketball operations, "put the band back together"

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Morey seems to be looking back rather than forward.

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Harden's $14.4 million pay cut allows Morey to use the team's non-taxpayer mid-level exception on PJ Tucker and bi-annual exception on Danuel House (who both played with Harden, under Morey, in Houston).

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Was the 76ers' one-plus-one enough? Why didn't the team desire a cheaper long-term deal?

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Had Harden opted in or re-signed at the max, the 76ers couldn't sign both ex-Rockets. He's 37. House performs. Harden will be 34 by 2023's opening night, presumably re-signed at the max.

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B/R recommended in May that Harden sign a lesser but still substantial multiyear deal in Philadelphia

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The move would save the team luxury taxes, which might be used to give Harden a lengthier, cheaper contract.

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Harden has leverage, like he did with the Nets before going to Philadelphia.

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The Sixers could have locked him up for $35 million a season, like Chris Paul did with the Suns. 

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Paul chose a reduced salary on a four-year, $120 million contract (with $75 million guaranteed) for 2021-22.

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Maybe the 76ers are hedging. Embiid is in his prime; Harden may not be.

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Embiid said after the Sixers were ousted by the Heat last season, "Everyone anticipated the Houston James Harden, but that's not him anymore."

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Harden's ability to attack the hoop and get to the free-throw line has diminished. His defence was weak.

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Embiid, 28, has passed Harden as a potential MVP, but he needs support. He relies on guards to get him the ball, like many great NBA big men. With Harden, Harris, Maxey, Melton, and now Tucker and House, Philadelphia should be strong.

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This may be Embiid's strongest supporting cast since 2018-19, if Harden rebounds.

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Maybe circumvention-worriers are paranoid. Maybe Morey wants to avoid overinvesting on Harden. The 76ers could offer him a comparable salary next season if he opts out.