Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley is really trying to set up that post-playing career gig. For the second consecutive day he was on ESPN’s talk shows, firing off his own hot takes. On Tuesday he said Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden should be signed to a “super duper duper max” contract. Beverley might have realized it’s easy to fire off takes one time, but there is an art to doing it consistently for multiple hours while being entertaining.
“No, I wouldn’t offer him the max,” said Beverley. “I’d offer him the super duper duper max.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) May 17, 2022
If James Harden declines the $47.4 million player option on his current deal and becomes a free agent, he can re-sign with the 76ers for five years and approximately $270 million. If he decides to take the player option, he would become eligible to extend with the 76ers for up to four years and approximately $223 million.
No matter how you slice it at the age of 35, which Harden will be in two years, if the 76ers sign him they’ll be paying him over $54 million a year.
Now, for a top-5 All-NBA player that’s great value. But for the version of Harden we saw this season? Not so much.
This was Harden’s worst season in EPM since his second year, and his worst shooting season since his rookie year. He lacks the explosion to gain separation and beat the defender in front of him.
He’s still an elite playmaker and can score. However he can’t score at the volume and efficiency he did when he was league MVP.
Twenty points and around 10 assists per game is OK for a player making $20 million to $30 million. But if he occupies a super max slot in a salary cap league that severely limits what the 76ers can do to build around Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid.
In Beverley’s analysis, you give Harden the super max because he’s James Harden. But Beverley is a player and thinking about it through a specific lens. Not to mention Harden is his guy.
To be fair, Harden hasn’t been the same since suffering a hamstring injury during last season’s playoffs as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. But he’s also never been dedicated to taking care of his body either.
Is it realistic to expect Harden to change his offseason habits at this stage of his career?
If you’re 76ers president Daryl Morey, a noted Harden acolyte, the team is already over the salary cap. You’re limited in what you can do as is. You have an in-his-prime 28-year-old perennial MVP candidate in Embiid who is often hurt. You have a player in Tobias Harris that is still owed $76 million who doesn’t deliver relative to his contract. Do you want to be saddled to this version of Harden at $200+ million?
Basketball is a young man’s game. The history of the league has shown us this. Teams that depend on players in their mid-30s to win consistently are not that successful.
While Beverley is arguing his point to pay Harden you could see the frustration in former player-turned-analyst JJ Redick. At times it was clear he and Beverley weren’t arguing the same points.
Beverley is an an engaging individual. He could have a career as an analyst if he wants one. But he’s going to have to be better about defending his takes and using some form of logic and common sense.