On Wednesday, James Harden’s two-year, $68.6 million contract with the Philadelphia Sixers became official. The soon-to-be 33-year-old is still in pursuit of his first NBA title, which is the whole reason why he took a pay cut. The New York Knicks aren’t laser-focused on winning a championship in 2022-23 like the Sixers, but they could help to spoil things for Harden.
Harden was supposed to win his first ring after he teamed up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but before he was able to spend a full season with the Brooklyn Nets, he requested a trade. He decided to reunite with Daryl Morey and team up with Joel Embiid instead.
The guard declined his $47 million player option, which was expected, but he reportedly wasn’t worried about the money. Harden spoke to Morey and told him to first improve the roster and to then “give me whatever is left over.” And in case Harden’s motivation isn’t clear, he did so because what matters to him right now is winning a championship.
What does James Harden’s Sixers contract mean for the Knicks?
All of the four other teams in the Atlantic Division made it to the 2022 playoffs except for New York. The Boston Celtics made it to the NBA Finals, the Philadelphia Sixers made it to the second round before falling to the Heat, the Toronto Raptors fell to the Sixers in the first round, and the Nets were hilariously swept by the Celtics in the first round.
Especially with the signing of Jalen Brunson, the Knicks’ goal is to make it back to the postseason. Things would improve for New York if the team finds a way to trade for Donovan Mitchell during the offseason, but those trade talks have quieted down.
The Eastern Conference is tough and if KD and Kyrie stay in Brooklyn, things will be even tougher. That duo staying wouldn’t fix the organization’s obvious dysfunction, but it’d give the team another chance at a title run.
Therefore, depending on what happens between now and the start of the 2022-23 season, there’s a real chance that the Sixers, Celtics, and Nets could make it to the finals. That doesn’t mean that the Raptors should be overlooked, though.
Philadelphia last won a championship in 1983. Harden’s a part of the Sixers’ hopeful championship formula, but it’s Embiid who’s the best player on the team. And while it was beneficial to the team for Harden to take a pay cut because PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr., and Trevelin Queen signed with Philadelphia in free agency, the Sixers aren’t the clear title favorites.
New York’s not going to be one of the teams standing in the way of Philadelphia and the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, but the Knicks can make it a lot tougher for Harden and the Sixers to reach their goal.
Even if New York trades for Mitchell, the Knicks will likely be overlooked and underrated. But having a true point guard for the first time in a long time will make a difference, as well as shifting the focus to the team’s younger players.
Harden’s nearing the end of his road and the truth is that he hasn’t been the same since being traded from Houston.
Yes, Brooklyn was a mess while he was there with the vaccine saga, but Harden lacked effort on and off the court. He did Philadelphia a favor by taking a pay cut, but he could’ve signed a four-year, $227 extension this summer if he would’ve stayed with the Nets, although his production this past year didn’t reflect that amount.
The Sixers are laying all of their chips out on the table. And with the Knicks being in the same division, New York has the prime opportunity to make life much more difficult for Philadelphia. Fans can surely have some fun with that. Trust the process, right?