On the eve of NBA free agency, a pair of superstars declined the player options on the final years of their contracts to become unrestricted free agents.
However, teams with money to spend probably shouldn’t get their hopes up about signing James Harden or Bradley Beal to a big, splashy contract once free agency opens. Both appear likely to return to their old teams.
Wednesday was the deadline for Harden, Beal and others to make decisions on their player options ahead of free agency. Players that declined their options can begin negotiating with teams when the free agency moratorium opens Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.
Here’s a quick look at the notable decisions on player options and what they mean for the NBA free agency landscape:
James Harden, Sixers: Opted out
Harden was expected to exercise his $47.3 million player option, but elected to decline it to reportedly work with the Sixers on a new deal that would give the team more financial flexibility to make improvements to the roster this offseason. Philadelphia has key needs to fill, and any extra room to maneuver salaries will be a boon for GM Daryl Morey.
Bradley Beal, Wizards: Opted out
Beal declined his $36.4 million player option in a move widely expected to clear the three-time All-Star to re-sign with the Wizards on a five-year max deal. Beal has spent his entire 10-year career in Washington and has long insisted he wants to stay. But could he finally change his mind and look to play elsewhere?
Patty Mills, Nets: Opted out
The veteran declined his $6.2 million option after one season in Brooklyn, but there’s a chance he could return. Mills figures to draw plenty of interest from contenders as an experienced point guard who can bring a steady hand to any backcourt. By declining the option, Mills will likely seek the security of a multiyear contract.
P.J. Tucker, Heat: Opted out
In another widely expected move, Tucker declined his $7.3 million player option in hopes of a raise and a longer contract. Tucker has been a key piece for multiple contending teams in recent years, and even at 37, he figures to have several suitors among contenders looking to add defensive versatility and toughness to their wing rotation.
Bobby Portis, Bucks: Opted out
Portis declined his $4.6 million player option in another move to hopefully secure a more lucrative long-term contract. A decent shooter for his size at 6-10, Portis could attract some notable interest on the open market, but there’s a good chance he returns to Milwaukee, where he’s become a fan favorite the last two years.
Kyrie Irving, Nets: Opted in
Irving announced earlier this week he is exercising his $36.9 million player option to return to the Nets. While he won’t be a free agent when the market opens Thursday, the situation is far from resolved, and Brooklyn could still look to potentially move Irving.
Russell Westbrook, Lakers: Opted in
It’s no surprise that Westbrook picked up his $47.1 million option. He would not have commanded a salary anywhere near that on the open market. However, with Westbrook back at such a large figure, the Lakers won’t have much flexibility to maneuver this offseason.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: James Harden and Bradley Beal decline player options