As a part of our ongoing series detailing which players the Charlotte Hornets should target during free agency, our attention shifts to the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers finished with a 51-31 record, which earned them a 4th-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Despite the ongoing Ben Simmons fiasco at the start of the season, Philly acquired James Harden at the trade deadline and looked to be a title-favorite with many claiming that Harden and Joel Embiid could become the modern-day Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
That did not happen this season. Philly overcame a hobbled Toronto Raptors squad in the first round before losing to the Miami Heat in the East Semifinals, 4-2. With many of their key pieces still under contract, the 76ers will not have too many decisions to make in 2022, but there is one that will be monstrously difficult.
Harden has a player option valued north of $40 million for 2022-23. If he opts in, he is playing for at least one more year in Philly, and not much changes in the grand scheme of things this offseason. If he opts out, he hits the open market as one of the biggest names in the unrestricted free agent pool.
The Hornets will likely never be able to afford Harden, unfortunately. If he chooses to opt out, it will be because he wants a longer-term deal worth a load of money, and the Hornets do not have that kind of cap space to work with. If a sign-and-trade can be executed, Charlotte would have to give up Gordon Hayward‘s contract and a plethora of young talent/assets.
Other than the Harden-sized elephant in the 76ers’ front office, there is not much to consider this summer. Shake Milton has a club option, which will more than likely be picked up, and Myles Powell is a restricted free agent who no one else will look to sign. The only unrestricted free agents are Paul Millsap and DeAndre Jordan, who are both far too old and slow to make a difference in Charlotte.
Harden is the clear draw on Philly’s roster. If he enters free agency, Charlotte will be one of the least-likely teams to acquire him, but they could put together an offer that could be appetizing.