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The championship title has proven elusive for James Harden so far in his career
  1. NBA

NBA - US Sports: Can Harden inspire 76ers to championship glory?

James Harden is expected to agree a new deal with Philadelphia 76ers in the coming days after declining a $47.4million player option for the 2022-23 season last week.

By declining that option, Harden gave the Sixers more room to manoeuvre in free agency as they look to build a team capable of challenging for the championship ahead of the new NBA season.

Harden won the MVP award in 2018, is a three-time NBA scoring champion and 10-time All-Star but he has never managed to win the championship, with a Finals appearance in 2012 in his third year in the NBA with Oklahoma City Thunder the closest he has come to a title.

Philadelphia are +1400 to win the NBA Championship outright in 2022-23, but can they build a team around Harden capable of going all the way?

Harden isn't the main man in Philly

Harden established himself as a true superstar during his eight-season stint with Houston Rockets before making the move to Brooklyn Nets.

At the Rockets, Harden was clearly the team's key man and they were geared up to get the best out of his incredible scoring ability but at Brooklyn and now with the Sixers that isn't the case.

Joel Embiid is the Sixers talisman and the Cameroonian center was unlucky not to be named MVP last term.He is the player who sets the tone when the Sixers play and that is unlikely to change moving forward.

Harden can be a team player

When Harden made the move to Brooklyn, some suggested he would not be as effective as part of a big three where he wasn't always the focal point in the offense, but those fears largely proved to be unfounded.

The shooting guard wasn't able to score as prolifically as he did with the Rockets, but he didn't have to either due to the presence of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, while injuries also impacted his stay with the Nets.

Low-key start to Sixers career for Harden

The Sixers acquired Harden as part of the deal that saw Ben Simmons head to the Nets in February and it is probably fair to say his first half season at the Wells Fargo Center was underwhelming.

The 32-year-old averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds per-game in 21 regular season appearances and his stats in all of those areas were lower in the playoffs, as Philly were ultimately eliminated by Miami in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

However, Harden did put in some encouraging performances after making the move to Philadelphia and a good off-season should see him return in better shape and with a better understanding of his teammates next year.

The Sixers were also an unbalanced team after allowing Seth Curry and Andre Drummond to join the Nets as part of the Harden trade, but next year they should be more competitive.

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Harden's biggest contribution to the Sixers

By declining his $47.4m player option for the 2022-23 season, Harden gave the Sixers a route to both the $10.5m non-taxpayer mid-level exception and the $4.1m bi-annual exception to use in free agency.

Philadelphia ae reportedly close to signing P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr and Trevelin Queen and those deals probably wouldn't have been possible had Harden not declined his option.

As it stands, the 2018 MVP will be earning around $10m less per-season when he does eventually agree to a new deal with Philadelphia and that has given them the scope to put together a team with genuine championship credentials.

There may be more new arrivals and as yet Harden hasn't officially signed on with the Sixers, but it would be a huge shock if he didn't stay with the team.

Harden was a reserve guard when OKC reached the finals back in 2012 but he was heavily involved, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award that season. Since then, he has been to the Western Conference finals twice with the Rockets but a championship has proven to be elusive.

The 10-time All-Star's decision to decline a player option and allow Philadelphia to build a stronger team means he is prioritizing a championship as he enters the latter years of his career.

And it wouldn't be a shock to see Harden produce some huge performances next season for the Sixers alongside Embiid, as the Sixers bid to end a championship drought that stretches way back to 1983.

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