Report: Philadelphia 76ers Star to Decline Player Option, Become Free Agent

A 10-time All-Star, three-time scoring leader, and one-time MVP will hit the open market. According to Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes, Philadelphia 76ers' superstar James Harden intends to decline his $35.6 million player option and pursue a four-year deal.

Harden took a significant pay cut last offseason in part to help the 76ers build out their roster to make a championship run for the 2023 season. Now, Harden is apparently looking for security in what could be the last major contract of the 33-year-old's playing career.

Harden has long been rumored to be eyeing a reunion with the Houston Rockets, the team he averaged an astonishing 29.6 points per game over 621 starts, but Haynes asserts that Harden is looking to link up with a team that is ready to compete. Given the Rockets are officially out of the race for Victor Wembanyama, they may no longer be a viable candidate.

That being said, a return to the 76ers may be hard to justify. The 76ers flamed out in spectacular fashion in the playoffs once again this year with a blowout 112-88 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Harden hit three of 11 field goal attempts for nine points against the Boston Celtics, and newly-minted MVP Joel Embiid wasn't much better, shooting five of 18 for 15 points. Even with the ousting of coach Doc Rivers, radical changes will be needed for the 76ers to believe they have a chance at a title next season.

It's hard to be certain what the future will hold for Harden. Despite leading the league in assists with 10.7 per game this season, his value isn't what it was: he missed the All-Star team for the first time since the 2011-12 season and his 21.0 points per game were his fewest since his days as a sixth-man on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden will have a chance to look around the league, but there's a very real chance he fails to find a more enticing situation than the 76ers. If that's the case, he'll simply have to hope the team can improve at coach and on the margins. Otherwise, as he declines, that elusive championship will become all the more unattainable.

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