Where the Sixers’ salary cap is in James Harden’s contract negotiations


Where the Sixers' salary cap is in James Harden's contract negotiations

When James Harden declined his $47.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season on Wednesday, he gave the Sixers a path to both the $10.5 million midlevel non-taxpayer exemption and the 4, $1 million waiver for every two years. They wasted no time in taking advantage of both when free agency officially began at 6:00 p.m. ET on Thursday.

The Sixers have agreed to a fully guaranteed, three-year, $33.2 million deal with forward PJ Tucker, according to sources Shine Charania from The Athletic and inked Daniel House Jr. on a two-year, $8.5 million deal, according to ESPN Adrian Wojnarowski. A source confirmed both signings for Liberty Ballers. The second year of House’s contract is a player option, according to PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck.

The Sixers weren’t done with that, however. They also reportedly signed reigning G League MVP Trevelin Queen to a two-year, $3.3 million deal Chris Haynes by Yahoo Sports. A source told Liberty Ballers that the contract includes a partial guarantee for 2022-23 that Derek Bodner of the Daily Six Newsletter was $300,000.

Harden has yet to officially agree to the terms of his next deal, although he and the team are said to be meeting over the weekend to negotiate Wojnarowski. Since the Sixers have already issued their non-taxable MLE and semi-annual exemption, they likely have a ballpark in mind for Harden’s salary next season.

With 15 players currently (excluding Harden), the Sixers have more than $120.5 million in salary on their books. They’re about $36.4 million below the $150.7 million luxury tax apron. This is the limit that teams may not exceed at any time during a league year utilizing non-taxable MLE, the semi-annual exemption, or acquiring a player through a sign-and-trade.

If the Sixers don’t have any more action planned this offseason, Harden won’t be able to make more than $36.4 million next season. That’s $11.0 million less than the player option he declined and $10.1 million less than the maximum salary he’s allowed to earn as a free agent. The Sixers can give him 8 percent annual raises from there, but the best he could make on a three-year deal is $118.0 million, almost $33 million less than his max.

Tucker and House’s signings cannot become official until the July moratorium is lifted at 12:00 p.m. ET on July 6. Until then, the Sixers could be looking to create more leeway under the apron to give Harden more cash next season.

Once the Sixers come to terms with Harden, they will have 16 players under contract. Rosters can be expanded to up to 20 players (including two-way players) during the offseason, but the Sixers must be without at least one of their non-two-way players before the start of the regular season.

Even if the Sixers waive Queen, his $300,000 guarantee remains on their books, though they would free up $1.3 million of leeway under the apron. Third-year security guard Isaiah Joe could also find himself on the chopping block, especially after the additions of House and De’Anthony Melton, as his $1.8 million salary isn’t guaranteed by opening night.

The Sixers could also eye a consolidation trade in the coming days to clear a roster spot and potentially free up more space under the apron. If they combine the salaries of Furkan Korkmaz ($5 million) and Matisse Thybulle ($4.4 million), they could target someone in the $6 million to $8 million range to hit both goals simultaneously.

If they don’t find takers for the Korkmaz-Thybulle package, the Sixers could instead consider a trade with Tobias Harris to forfeit salary.

The cleanest contract could send Harris to the Charlotte Hornets for Gordon Hayward, who has two years and around $61.6 million left on his contract. He’ll make about $7.5 million less than Harris next year, even though both Harris and Hayward have trade-kickers in their contracts.

Harris will owe the lesser of 5 percent of his total remaining contract value, or $5 million, if he trades while Hayward has a 15 percent trade kicker. Harris’ trade-kicker would add about $1.9 million to his cap hit over the next two seasons, while Hayward’s trade-kicker would add $4.6 million. Harris and Hayward could choose to forgo their trade kickers — the trade math works either way — but the Sixers would only save about $3 million if Hayward didn’t forego his.

The Sixers could also pursue a sign-and-trade where Harris is salary-match going to another team. One such opportunity could be sending Harris and Korkmaz and/or Thybulle to the Indiana Pacers for free-agent forward TJ Warren and guard Buddy Hield, who has two years and $40.5 million left on his current contract . However, sign-and-trades must last at least three years — including a fully guaranteed season — so Warren would need to be amenable to this type of contract structure.

Until Harden agrees to the terms and officially signs his new contract, the Sixers will have some flexibility to increase how much he can make next year. But if he’s okay with a salary no more than $36.4 million, they can pull off any of their reported off-season signings and re-sign him while staying under the lead.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via NBA.com, PPBStats, cleaning the glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information per Spotrac or RealGM.

You May Also Like