Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden intends to decline his $35.6 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer in order to secure a long-term deal, league sources tell Bleacher Report.
Harden, 33, took a sizable pay cut last offseason to help the Sixers build the roster out. The guard will now be seeking a four-year contract.
The 10-time All-Star is coming off a year averaging 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and a league-leading 10.7 assists.
The Houston Rockets have long been a rumored destination, but sources say Harden will only entertain suitors that present a competitive roster and the basketball freedom for the star to be himself, sources say.
At the moment, the Sixers are the only logical option, coming off a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. But the dynamic in Philadelphia will undoubtedly change next season, considering the Sixers have to find the right coach after dismissing Doc Rivers.
If Houston is all in on a Harden reunion, it will take some roster reconstructing to entice Harden. Houston has a promising young core that includes Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and Alperen Sengun, along with the No. 4 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, but the team tied for the worst record in the Western Conference last season (22-60).
Ty Lue Extension Talks
Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue’s representatives met with the team this week to discuss the coach’s future with the organization, league sources tell Bleacher Report. This meeting comes on the heels of Marc Stein’s report that the Phoenix Suns are expected to explore the possibility of poaching Lue from the Clippers.
If both sides were to agree to an expanding the pact, it would likely come in the form of a new deal rather than an extension, sources say.
Lue, 46, has two years remaining on a five-year deal, $35 million deal. The value of his current deal is similar to his last contract as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers after leading them to a championship.
Regarded as one of the brightest minds roaming the sidelines, the Clippers have been plagued by multiple injuries to key players and have fallen well short of championship expectations during Lue’s tenure.
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is a huge fan of Lue and the two have a great relationship. They hold routine game-day meetings in Lue’s office.
Lue’s situation is one to monitor.
Suns Likely to Bring Back Chris Paul
The Phoenix Suns are likely to guarantee the full salary of star guard Chris Paul for the 2023-24 season, league sources tell Bleacher Report.
Paul, 38, is only guaranteed $15.8 million of his $30.8 million wage if he were to be waived by the June 28 deadline. Phoenix still maintains some flexibility with the decision, but the franchise is currently of the mindset that Paul will open up next season as the team’s starting point guard, sources say.
The 12-time All-Star suffered a left groin strain in Game 2 of the second-round series versus the Denver Nuggets and was not able to make a return. The Suns were eliminated in six. Had the series been extended to Game 7, Paul would have been cleared for that contest, sources say.
Suns’ Search for a New Coach
The Suns also have a coaching search to conduct after the firing of Monty Williams.
Kevin Young, an associate head coach under Williams, will interview with the Suns as early as next week, sources say. Young appears to have the backing of many Suns’ players.
Portland’s Play for a Lillard Co-Star
The Portland Trail Blazers finished the 2022-23 season with the fifth-worst record and moved up in the lottery to land the No. 3 pick of the 2023 NBA Draft.
Portland, in an effort to continue building a contending roster around its star Damian Lillard, is expected to make the pick available for a trade, league sources tell Bleacher Report.
The franchise is in the process of evaluating the market for the No. 3 pick as well as examining incoming rookie prospects that are attainable at No. 3, sources say.
“[The third pick] is significant,” Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said. “There’s going to be some really good players at three that could be great for us or somebody else, depending on how we approach this draft.”
Lillard, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, has communicated to the front office of his desire to bring in veteran players to facilitate a fleet turnaround from the two previous seasons of underachieving, sources say.
The Trail Blazers and Lillard seem to be on the same page right now.