What is Philadelphia 76ers’ President Daryl Morey’s next move?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 07: Shirts line the seats of the Wells Fargo Center for fans before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 07, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

When James Harden opted out of his $47 million to help the Philadelphia 76ers improve the roster during free agency, many thought he would sign as soon as those moves were made. The Sixers have signed PJ Tucker, Danuel House, and Trevelin Queen, but Harden still hasn’t signed yet. He will reportedly take a $15 million pay cut this upcoming season, which helped facilitate the deals the Philadelphia 76ers were able to make.

It has been reported due to salary cap restrictions that the Philadelphia 76ers would be hard-capped if James Harden resigned at a first-year rate of $36-$40 million range, which wouldn’t allow them any more roster flexibility for next season. With Harden reportedly discussing resigning at a first-year number for $32 million, it allows the Sixers to have the possibility of some flexibility going forward.

It’s been ten days since free agency began, and those deals were made, but we are still awaiting official news on Harden resigning. Many are wondering what the hold-up is? Are there more moves to be made? Does Morey have something else up his sleeve?

Going After the White Whale

Just five months ago, James Harden was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers in a blockbuster trade, which now looks like the first move of a mass exodus of stars in Brooklyn. With Kyrie Irving and the Nets organization at odds, Kevin Durant requested a trade. After the trade request, more than half the league called the Nets regarding a Durant trade, and the Sixers were certainly one of those teams. The Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat were reported as Durant’s preferred destinations, but no deal has materialized.

Although Harden left Durant in Brooklyn, that wouldn’t stop Daryl Morey from trying to make a deal for the disgruntled superstar. The 76ers’ best package to offer the Nets would have to be centered around Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and future pick swaps. Other teams could offer much more draft compensation, but without getting an “all-star” in return, the Sixers package could be something the Nets consider. Maybe Morey is hoping for a chance at acquiring Kevin Durant or at least waiting for a Durant trade to happen in general, as it will change the landscape of the NBA.

Going After Eric Gordon

It certainly seems like Daryl Morey is trying to get the old Houston band back together. After signing Tucker and House in free agency and trying to strike up a draft-night trade for Eric Gordon, Morey wants the Sixers to become the Rockets east. The draft-night trade didn’t materialize, but reports say the 76ers have tried to re-engage with the Rockets around Gordon.

It’s hard to see a Gordon trade to Philadelphia without trading Tobias Harris or gutting the roster due to Gordon’s $19 million salary. Harris makes $37 million this upcoming season, and moving him would be the simplest way to try to acquire Gordon. If Harris weren’t included in a trade, which seems unlikely, the team would have to trade a bunch of players on small salaries to get close to matching the incoming salary. The Philadelphia 76ers would most likely have to trade a combination of Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, Georges Niang, Isaiah Joe, Charles Bassey, and Shake Milton. Acquiring Eric Gordon seems like it would take too much cap gymnastics, but if anyone could make it work, Morey could.

Looking For Reinforcements for the 76ers

Leading up to the draft, it was reported that the Sixers were shopping Tobias Harris to assess his value. Harris had an up and down season but came on in the playoffs after adjusting to playing alongside James Harden. Harris has had a solid career as a Sixer but hasn’t lived up to the contract that he signed back in 2019. With the arrival of P.J. Tucker, it could make Harris expendable, and maybe Morey is looking for “better fitting” pieces around Joel Embiid and James Harden. A few players that come to mind that could fit around the two all-stars include Harrison Barnes and John Collins.

There has to be a reason that James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers haven’t officially inked a new partnership together. Daryl Morey could have something up his sleeve, or it could be as simple as the two sides still working out the finer details. Whatever the reason is, we shall find out soon enough as more dominoes are expected to fall this summer.