James Harden apparently wants out of Philadelphia after he demanded a trade from Brooklyn after tanking his way out of Houston and leaving the city. Don’t cry too much for the Sixers, though. It’s probably best that way.
The truth is that Philadelphia can probably find a better partner for Joel Embiid, the current NBA MVP. The 76ers have additional opportunities to investigate and perhaps something to gain as Harden’s exit is quickly approaching as NBA free agency gets underway.
Several rumors said that Harden is looking for a trade from the Sixers to the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, or Los Angeles Clippers after choosing to enter into his $35.6 million expiring contract on Thursday. Which possible location is the most logical?
If New York is indeed interested in matching Harden with Jalen Brunson, it would be perplexing. A point guard is required in Miami. Why then not hold off until Damian Lillard? Phoenix just made a complete commitment to Bradley Beal, and it would take some serious ingenuity to come up with a solution. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Harden wants to play in Los Angeles, and the Clippers may still make the best offer.
When it comes to trading Dame Lillard, will Portland eventually cave? In our new offseason tracker, we’re keeping a close eye on all of the top free agents, trade targets, retirement bluffers, and more.
The Sixers should essentially aim to trade Harden for guys that are everything he isn’t, including players who are strong defenders, knockdown shooters off the catch, and energetic movers without the ball.
The tweet below confirms the news:
— Die-Hard Chicago Bulls Fans (@DieHardCBfans) June 30, 2023
Sixers, Clippers Trade Talks: Could Paul George Be In Play?
Paul George is most likely where talks with the Clippers begin. It makes sense for both parties in a big trade to send Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Tobias Harris to the Clippers and receive George and a group of supporting players back.
The Sixers don’t have a lot of clouts to demand a player of George’s ability, and teaming Harden with Kawhi Leonard and George is probably L.A.’s objective. The next season marks Harden’s 34th season, and he has one year left on his contract despite a physical decline.
The Clippers would likely want to keep George even if he is 33 years old and just has one guaranteed year left. It’s more plausible that Philly would trade Harden and Tucker to the Clippers in exchange for simply the supporting cast guys and one or two future first-round picks.
Here is a reasonable arrangement that might benefit both parties:
The clippers get: Tucker and Harden
Sixers get: Robert Covington, Terrance Mann, Nicolas Batum, Norman Powell, and first-round selections in 2028 and 2030
With this return, Philadelphia would receive four players who had shooting percentages above 38% the previous year. Covington and Batum are seasoned players who would make wise acquisitions, and Mann and Powell are still in their prime.
The Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat, who each have two stars and a strong supporting cast, just advanced to the NBA Finals. Nick Nurse, the new head coach of the Sixers, will have a lot on his plate, but this deal would provide him with a ton of alternatives, barring a guard with Harden’s level of ball dominance.
This is something I wrote earlier this month during the Finals, and it seems pertinent once more now:
Nurse needs to empower Embiid to attack more from the perimeter, much like how Milwaukee uses Giannis. And much like how Denver uses Jokic, Nurse needs to put Embiid in different spots on the floor. The Nuggets get Jokic into advantageous positions with off-screen actions and with his reps as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll.
Embiid may lack Giannis’s vertical athleticism and Jokic’s playmaking feel, but he brings additional dimensions to the game that can be amplified in a system that fosters movement and spacing. It’s a benefit he has seldom experienced under various Sixers regimes. Imagine Embiid in place of Domantas Sabonis in Sacramento, screening, handing the ball off to shooters, and posting up. The Sixers won’t shift to that extreme, but they should at least install some elements from that kind of system.
As the Sixers construct their team around Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, whose games may soar with more room and the correct system, turning the Harden team into a collection of secondary players would set them on a similar road.
Trading Harden also has other advantages. Picks from the Clippers may be collected to restock the asset inventory for potential use in future deals, perhaps as a carrot for Harris’s contract that is about to expire.
The Sixers would anticipate having more than $40 million in cap space the next summer thanks to the trade structure I suggested above when there will likely be a free agency class that includes George, Leonard, LeBron James, and a ton of other top players.
The future? Perhaps Philly will make the pitch to sign LeBron and select Bronny James. After all, Embiid and LeBron just announced the formation of a production firm together, which is news that comes months after LeBron selected Embiid first overall in the All-Star Game draft.
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Will Harden Be Traded by the Sixers?
However, the fact that it has come to these kinds of illusions is disappointing for Philadelphia fans. Since obtaining the Beard, the Sixers have experienced significant success. Trading for Harden was a wise move to fill Ben Simmons’ void, but Harden only sporadically displayed his peak scoring ability in Philly and didn’t contribute enough in other areas.
The Sixers’ loss of Harden may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, or it may signal the beginning of Embiid’s departure from Philadelphia. I’m not going to claim to be able to see into the future. But this move has a lot on the line.
A fervent following is desperate for a championship. The NBA MVP also wants it. And if he doesn’t get his way, he might eventually start to have a wandering eye, exactly like his restless friend who will soon be leaving.
We’ll update you if this news changes. Follow our Twitter account for the latest news on this issue.