Is James Harden Playing His Way Out of Max Extension?

    • Harden is averaging 18.6 PPG this postseason, his lowest playoff average since 2011-12 when he came off the bench for OKC.
    • He's eligible to sign a four-year, $223 million contract ($55.8M AAV) — $270 million total over five years.

Joel Embiid’s absence is going to ask some serious questions of James Harden’s superstar status, namely whether the 2018 MVP can still carry a team — and whether he’ll be worth a record-breaking contract this summer.

The outlook isn’t good: In the Sixers’ Game 1 loss without Embiid (concussion), Harden turned the ball over five times and scored 16 points on 13 FGA. 

Harden’s expected to opt into the final year of his deal, which is worth $47.3 million next season. After that, he’s eligible for a four-year, $223 million contract ($55.8M AAV).

But as he continues the downward trend that began in Brooklyn — which his trade to Philadelphia was supposed to reverse — any team should think twice about a long-term commitment.

  • Harden’s 18.6 PPG this postseason are his lowest since 2011-12.
  • His regular-season averages (22 PPG, 15.3 FGA) were his lowest since 2011-12 — and his 41% FG was his lowest since 2009-10.
  • With Philly, he’s averaging fewer points, rebounds, steals, FGA, and FG% than he did in Brooklyn — despite playing more.
  • In 27 games with the Sixers, Harden has yet to attempt 20 shots in a game. He attempted at least 20+ FGA in 306 games prior to the trade.

Some reports indicate that Embiid might return for Game 3 or 4 if he’s cleared, but it might be too late if The Beard doesn’t get back to his old ways.

Philadelphia can technically avoid the long-term commitment by only signing him for one year, but if not, he could become the first $60 million player at 37.