by Shams Charania, John Hollinger and William Guillory
James Harden is opting for his $35.6 million deal for next season to work together on a trade out of Philadelphia for the 10-time NBA All-Star and 76ers, league sources said. athletic,
League sources say that the Clippers and the Heat are expected to emerge as contenders for Harden. teams across the league who spoke athletic Understand that a player of Harden’s caliber will likely head to his preferred destination, especially considering Harden’s exit from Houston following the 2020 season. The 76ers have already begun the process of discussing deals for Harden with other teams, according to league sources with knowledge of the talks.
Sources said the 76ers made it clear throughout the process that the franchise did not see a long-term future with Harden.
The 33-year-old Harden averaged 21 points and 10.7 assists per game last season. He was traded from Brooklyn to Philadelphia in 2022 (along with Paul Millsap) for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks. Harden signed a two-year, $68,640,000 deal with the 76ers before last season after accepting a salary cut of approximately $15 million in free agency.
Philadelphia finished 54–28 in 2022–23, losing to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
of athletic Instant Analysis:
Why would Harden be involved?
First and foremost, it’s likely because no contender with cap room was willing to pay him more than $35.6 million this season. (It’s far-fetched of me to suggest that free-agent talks are happening before June 30 at 6 p.m. EST; just call it a guess).
However, it is also his best route to reach a coveted destination. The fact that he chose his deal rather than become an unrestricted free agent was initially surprising given the terms of his contract. Unlike some other players in this position, Harden’s contract is non-extendable; He will certainly be a renter becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, and that will potentially limit how much other teams may be willing to bid for his services.
Given those factors, arranging a sign-and-trade ahead of time in which he would have to pay three years—the minimum required for a sign-and-trade—would have been a more robust way of assuring that he Will get paid on long term deal. ,
Regrettably, a sign-and-trade deal has its limits as teams above the first tax apron cannot acquire a player in a sign-and-trade, and that designation includes most teams including Harden. Would like to
The other major issue here is timing – the trade rules to acquire Harden are much easier for teams, especially if he is dealt before June 30 rather than later, as once New York is on the night of the 30th The clock strikes midnight. , the new CBA is in effect and the outbound salary required to achieve it has increased from $28.5 million to at least $32 million. – Hollinger
What would Philadelphia want?
The Sixers will likely be looking for a combination of players and selections that will help replenish the roster, even if they need more than one deal to complete their final game. Given that the acquiring team would need to send at least $28.5 million to Philadelphia for Harden, and some partners may not have that amount of deals to expire, the final phase of the deal could be a three-way deal. Transactions seem to have a high probability.
In addition to draft picks and talent, the Sixers will likely try to fill Furkan Korkmaz’s unwanted expiring contract ($5.3 million) in a deal, and pawn off the last two years and $22 million on PJ Tucker’s contract. Can With the Sixers currently having $7 million over the luxury tax line with only nine players under contract, they would need to take a substantial salary cut below the tax apron to exercise their full non-taxpayer middle-tier exception. – Hollinger
Who can bid for Harden?
The most obvious suspects are the teams that crossed the border, as they are the ones that could not entice Harden with a free-agent deal.
By far the most obvious is the Clippers, who could acquire Harden by sending Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Bones Hyland, first-round pick Kobe Brown and a lightly guarded 2028 first-rounder to the Sixers for Harden and Tucker (let me emphasize Grant) this is a hypothetical trade I am proposing for illustrative purposes). The Sixers could stretch Morris’ money and leave enough room under the apron to re-sign Paul Reid and use his entire midlevel exception.
The perennial star-hunting Knicks could put together a similar package by collecting Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin and Emmanuel Quickle and one or more of their four 2024 first-round picks in a deal for Harden. Then again, the Sixers could extend the big expiring contract (Fournier) and build back with younger arrivals.
By far the most hilarious scenario, however, is Harden being traded to Phoenix for Bradley Beal, where he could be reunited with Kevin Durant. Sadly, there is as yet no indication that this idea has any basis in reality. – Hollinger
Does Harden Fit Into “Heat Culture”?
If there is someone who does not fit the ideals of “Heat culture”, Harden will be at the top of the list. He has a long history of late nights in Vegas, questionable fitness and lackluster defensive effort. But in the end, this league is all about talent.
And despite some of his shortcomings, Harden is still one of the most talented shot-makers in the game today. I still think Damian Lillard tops Miami’s wish list for this offseason, and there’s a huge gap between him and everyone else. However, if Lillard’s intentions in Portland look shaky, Harden could be a great candidate to provide the offensive boost the Heat are looking for.
I’m sure Harden wouldn’t mind life in South Beach. If Harden makes the move, it will be the second time in the last five years that Joel Embiid will have to deal with a prolific guard forcing Philly to move to Miami. – Guillory
(Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)