Sixers “focused on re-signing” James Harden amid offseason rumors

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Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden, center front, reacts after scoring past Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown (7) during overtime of Game 4 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

While the Philadelphia 76ers have been tagged in multiple trade rumors ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft, a new report from Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggests that the team’s current priority remains James Harden. The 10-time All-Star has been widely reported to be “torn” between returning to his old stomping ground in Houston and staying with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia. But even if he were to depart, it seems that the team is not expected to pursue other veteran guards like Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards or Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors.

Trade rumors surrounding Beal have swelled in the last week, as it’s been reported that he may be open to relaxing the “no trade” clause in his contract. The Sixers quickly became named as a potential suitor, given the lack of a veteran backcourt presence should Harden choose to walk. Similarly, with VanVleet declining his player option last week, rumors of a potential fit in Philadelphia swirled, especially given his obvious connection to new head coach Nick Nurse.

Harden has two weeks – until June 29th – to decline his $35 million player option for next year. As they did last year, it appears that the Sixers are highly invested in providing the 33-year-old with a short-term yet lucrative deal. It’s quite possible that the team is prioritizing Harden not only due to his strong relationship with Embiid but because the team’s cap situation makes resigning Harden their best option.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) smiles while walking down court with James Harden (1) during the second half of Game 5 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Should Harden choose to walk, the Sixers could potentially flip Tobias Harris – who is in the final year of his five-year, $180 million deal – for a competitive player. But since the team is already over the cap, they would have no space to bring in a new player, and while a sign-and-trade could usually be an option, the Houston Rockets already have the space to sign him outright.

Rather, it appears that the team is focusing on bringing Harden back and considering options for Tobias trades elsewhere. Fischer also reported that the team is interested in acquiring a couple of second-round picks for next Thursday’s draft. With their first-round pick going to the Brooklyn Nets and their second-round picks being deducted due to the Danuel House Jr. and PJ Tucker tampering charges, swapping Harris for picks could be a potential solution to the Sixers’ lack of draft capital.