It was just reported (first by Shams Charania of the Athletic and then other sites) that James Harden is signing a 2 year, $70M deal to stay with the Clippers, with the second-year being a player option.

This is, overall, a totally fine deal for the Clippers and Harden. Harden averaged 16.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 8.5 assists for the Clippers last year in the regular season with 61.2% True Shooting efficiency. Those raw numbers and his impact stats both indicate he was a star-level player last year, albeit not an All-NBA level guy anymore, and $35M for that type of player is fine. He was also the Clippers’ best player in the playoffs, with 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 8 assists on 61.6% True Shooting.

Harden will turn 35 in August, which means you have to build some slippage into this deal. Even if he does continue to decline, that $35M/year value is pretty solid and probably only a slight overpay. The second year being a player option is also totally fine. If Harden declines and doesn’t seem to think he will get more elsewhere, he will pick it up. If he thinks he can get another bag next summer and/or is unhappy on the Clippers, he will presumably decline and leave.

This being a two-year deal is pretty interesting. The Clippers signed Kawhi to a three-year extension, have wanted to sign PG to a three-year deal, and the rumored deals for Harden were three years. I think this is beneficial for both sides, as Harden can move on if the Clippers are no longer competitive in a year or two, and the Clippers can similarly move up their rebuild in that case. Considering Harden’s age, getting him on a 1+1 is better than 2.

In terms of the overall Clippers’ offseason, this aligns with the Clippers’ seeming plan of getting under not just the second apron, but the first apron. That would open up the non taxpayer mid level exception, allowing them to sign a legitimate starter-level player as well as enable more flexibility with trades. Harden only being on a two-year deal also would indicate that PG is not coming back, and that the Clippers will be looking for a rebuild sooner than later.

This has seemed like a lock for a while now. No other team was rumored to even be pursuing Harden, nor was he suggested to have any interest in leaving. Thus, the first domino of the Clippers’ offseason has fallen. They have their starting point guard and their second-best player back, and now can focus on the Paul George discussions and the aftermath.

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