76ers rumors: James Harden may take less, Philly still exploring trade market

March 23, 2022, Los Angeles, California, USA: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers puts up a layup during their NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday March 23, 2022 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PI/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

Free agency is just around the corner, and the Philadelphia 76ers are already making moves, according to the rumor mill. With the team reportedly set to sign P.J. Tucker to a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $30 million, the Sixers still have some financial gymnastics to do before they’re able. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, in addition to James Harden potentially opting out for less money in 2022-23, the Sixers are also exploring trade possibilities to free up additional funds.

Could Harden take less?

There are quite a few takeaways from Fischer’s excerpt on Philadelphia. First, the idea that James Harden could opt out and re-sign for less money in 2022-23 is one that many had theorized about but thought unlikely given recent reports. This, of course, being a fluid situation, likely saw a change when it became clear that adding Tucker was more likely an inevitability than a possibility.

The Philadelphia 76ers are searching for flexibility

Second, even if Harden agrees to less this season, the Sixers would continue to gauge the trade market in an attempt to make themselves more financially flexible. Now, this could mean one of two things. The Philadelphia 76ers are attempting to move significant salaries in a potential salary dump a la the New York Knicks. That’s significantly less likely than the alternative.

Much more likely is the concept of trading away high-priced players (Tobias Harris) and attempting to receive similar value in return just at a more affordable price. This flows directly into another point that Fischer made in his article.

Philadelphia wants veteran talent just as bad

The team is not only looking for financial flexibility but also they are looking to “upgrade their roster with veteran talent.” One primary concern among fans was that Daryl Morey would be willing to trade away contributors for a chance to sign Tucker. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Morey doesn’t appear to be that foolish.

While much is being done to bring Tucker to Philadelphia, it never made sense for Morey to sacrifice value all for the sake of bringing his former Rocket. If the Sixers move on from one or more players in an effort to free up salary, one could bet that any deal would result in Philadelphia receiving some form of legitimate value instead, whether it be draft compensation or, as Fischer suggested, multiple talented veterans.

A Philadelphian Tale: Thybulle Goes West

Finally, Fischer mentions an update on Matisse Thybulle, who has often been referenced in 76ers trade rumors. According to Fischer, Thybulle has been most often connected to the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks. Both Western Conference teams are looking to make a push next season and could benefit from a defensive specialist such as Matisse Thybulle.

There’s a lot to unpack from one simple paragraph but what’s clear is that the Philadelphia 76ers are active, and moves will be made. This will not be the same team plus P.J. Tucker as many had feared.