Sixers offseason primer: James Harden free agency, Tyrese Maxey extension, more

The Philadelphia 76ers are entering a critical offseason that could shape their direction over the next four years. James Harden could become a free agent and he will be seeking one last big contract. Tyrese Maxey and De’Anthony Melton can sign extensions that would balloon roster expenses. Along with enormous luxury tax payments, they’d have roster-building restrictions if they cross the newly implemented second tax apron.

After falling to the Celtics in the playoffs, these decisions could feel tough until you consider the alternatives. It’ll be challenging for the Sixers to make significant improvements going forward and are more likely glued to this core in the future.

Here is a preview of the 2023 offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers.

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James Harden free agency

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden can enter free agency this summer if he declines his $35.6 million player option. As detailed in his free agency stock analysis, he projects to be the best free agent on the market and could command the biggest contract this offseason. His mixed outing in the playoffs could hurt his chances of earning a maximum contract but he could still earn close to one.

Harden is eligible to re-sign with the Sixers for a maximum of four years, $210.1 million. The Over-38 rule complicates adding a fifth year worth $61.9 million. Another team, such as the Houston Rockets, can offer him up to four years, $201.7 million. The slight difference in both maximum contract amounts could put the Sixers in a bind if another team offers Harden one.

The Sixers cannot really afford to let Harden walk for nothing considering what they gave up to acquire him. They don’t project to be a cap space team if he leaves so they wouldn’t be able to replace him in free agency adequately.

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Luxury tax projection and future second apron restrictions

James Harden and Daryl Morey before a press conference
James Harden and Daryl Morey before a press conference

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Sixers are heading into the summer with nine players – assuming Danuel House, and Montrezl Harrell all pick up their player options and Harden doesn’t. They would project to be $38 million below the luxury tax but they seem all but certain to be taxpayers if they re-sign Harden. Their tax bill could be north of $50 million after filling out their roster if they re-sign Harden to a maximum salary and re-sign Jalen McDaniels.

Having both Joel Embiid and Harden on maximum contracts and Tobias Harris earning $39.3 million could also put the Sixers over the second tax apron. That would eliminate their access to the mid-level exception and they wouldn’t be able to sign players on the buyout market. Their best chance at staying below the second apron and possibly the luxury tax again would be by significantly decreasing payroll by trading Harris.

A new contract for Maxey alongside significant contracts for Embiid, Harden, and Melton will likely put the Sixers deep over the second tax apron starting in 2024-25. One of the biggest restrictions they’d have is the inability to aggregate players in trade or take on more salaries than they’re giving out. This would make the upcoming 2023-24 season their last chance to consolidate some of their end-of-bench players for a rotation player.

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Tyrese Maxey extension

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrese Maxey will be extension-eligible during the offseason. The third-year guard is one of the best draft steals in recent memory and one of the best young offensive players in the league. He may just be scratching the surface and his All-Star potential will likely get priced into negotiations. Securing his future will be a priority with Harden’s future with the team unclear.

The floor for Maxey in negotiations will likely start with recent extensions for RJ Barrett, Tyler Herro, and Jordan Poole. Of those three, Poole got the most guaranteed money at four years, $123 million, an annual average salary of just under $31 million. Maxey is arguably a cut above that group but might not quite be a maximum player, projected at five years, $194.3 million. A slightly below maximum contract in the $175-185 million range could make sense.

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De'Anthony Melton extension

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

De’Anthony Melton will also be extension-eligible throughout 2023-24. He’s been a perfect fit for the Sixers with his ability to defend the league’s best guards, passing, and ability to hit open threes. He will be able to extend for up to a maximum of four years, projected at $75 million. Such a framework would put his salary on par with some of the best defensive guards like Marcus Smart and Derrick White.

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2023-24 SALARY SITUATION

Players rostered: 10

Guaranteed salaries: $151.1 million

Non-guaranteed salaries: $8.7 million

Total salary: $159.8 million

Luxury tax space: $2.2 million

First apron space: $9.2 million

Second apron space: $19.7 million

Spending power:

  • Non-taxpayer mid-level exception: $12,220,000 (could lose access to this if they go over the apron)

  • Bi-annual exception: $4,448,000 (could lose access to this if they go over the apron)

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Joel Embiid

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $46,900,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $210,112,000 through 2026-27

Additional notes:

  • 2026-27 salary is a player option projected at $58.2 million.

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Tobias Harris

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $39,270,150

Remaining salary guaranteed: $39,270,150

Additional notes:

  • Extension-eligible throughout 2023-24.

  • 5 percent trade bonus currently worth $2 million.

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James Harden

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $35,640,000 (player option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $35,640,000

Additional notes:

  • 15 percent trade bonus currently worth $5.4 million.

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PJ Tucker

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $11,014,500

Remaining salary guaranteed: $22,553,500 though 2024-25

Additional notes:

  • 2024-25 salary is a player option worth $11.5 million.

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De'Anthony Melton

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

2023-24 salary: $8,000,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $1,500,000

Additional notes:

  • 2023-24 salary is partially guaranteed for $1.5 million. Fully guaranteed if not waived by July 3.

  • Extension-eligible throughout 2023-24 for up to four years, projected at $75 million.

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Furkan Korkmaz

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $5,370,370

Remaining salary guaranteed: $5,370,370

Additional notes:

  • Extension-eligible throughout 2023-24.

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Tyrese Maxey

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $4,343,920

Remaining salary guaranteed: $4,343,920

Additional notes:

  • Eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension during the offseason for up to five years.

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Danuel House

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $4,310,250 (player option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $4,310,250

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Montrezl Harrell

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $2,760,026 (player option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $2,760,026

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Jaden Springer

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2023-24 salary: $2,226,240

Remaining salary guaranteed: $6,244,603 through 2024-25

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Georges Niang

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Cap hold: $4,504,500

Type of free agent: Early Bird (unrestricted)

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Paul Reed

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $2,261,264

Type of free agent: Bird (restricted)

Additional notes:

  • Qualifying offer: $2,261,264.

  • Can avoid free agency and extend with the Sixers by June 30.

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Dewayne Dedmon

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,989,698

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

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Jalen McDaniels

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,989,698

Type of free agent: Bird (unrestricted)

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Shake Milton

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Cap hold: $1,989,698

Type of free agent: Bird (unrestricted)

Additional notes:

  • Can avoid free agency and extend with the Sixers by June 30.

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Louis King

Cap hold: $1,774,999

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

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Mac McClung

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Cap hold: $1,774,999

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

You can follow Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.

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Story originally appeared on HoopsHype