Shockwaves were sent across the NBA Thursday afternoon. Just as it was announced that Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden would be accepting his $35.6 million player option, it was also made known that he and the team would work together on a trade to send the 10-time All-Star to a new home.
Various teams were instantly thrown out as potential suitors, including the Los Angeles Clippers, the New York Knicks, and many more. While James Harden’s next team remains unknown for now, what is known is that despite this plan, the Sixers still value Harden and will not simply trade him away for pennies on the dollar.
The Sixers will be searching for deals that make their team better, at least in the short term, but ideally both short and long term. They will not simply trade last season’s assist leader away for salary or future draft compensation. With that said, here are five mock trades based off of recent rumors to find James Harden his next home.
James Harden trade #1: The Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are said to be at the top of James Harden’s list of desired landing spots. A Los Angeles native, Harden would have not only the chance to return home but also to compete for a title alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers were not only the initial and most frequent team mentioned regarding Harden, but they are Harden’s desired next team according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick:
According to sources directly involved in the situation on both sides, the Los Angeles native wants to play for the Clippers and the Sixers are already in the process of discussing his desired move.— Sam Amick
If Harden wants to head out Californiway, the Sixers will of course oblige, provided the return in such a trade meets their standards.
Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer previously reported that the Clippers has reached out previously to the Sixers this offseason and discussed a James Harden deal while they were shopping around Norm Powell and Marcus Morris. The two vetrans are very loudly sitting on the trade block and while they themselves are likely not enough to convince Philadelphia, adding a couple of draft picks could be the sweetner needed to get the deal done.
Morris could also be waived and his contract stretched if the Sixers desired which would allow the team to potentially use the full non-taxpayer mid-level except during the upcoming free agency period.
If this deal were to be done today, it would be done using salary figures from the 2022-2023 NBA season.
James Harden trade #2: The New York Knicks
Right after the Los Angeles Clippers, the New York Knicks were named by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski as a team potentially interested in James Harden. That claim was also later confirmed by Philly Voice’s Kyle Neubeck.
Aside from RJ Barrett, it’s difficult to imagine what talent from the Knicks the Sixers would be interested in however one veteran role player, one role player whose still on his rookie deal, and a young, potential starting caliber, player plus two of the Knicks’ four first round picks in 2024 could persuade the Sixers.
It could also prove useful should the team attempt to poach a star later in the season.
James Harden trade #3: The Phoenix Suns/Dallas Mavericks
I don’t even want to acknowledge this personally but because it has been suggested, I feel an obligation to mention it. According to NBA Insider Brian Windhorst, Kyrie Irving is a potential candidate to find himself in Philadelphia through all of this mess.
Windhorst said, “I would not be surprised if we see Kyrie wanting to investigate what’s going on in Philadelphia if Harden moves out if there’s a window for him to come in.” While it’s not exactly a prediction, let’s look at the many complications of trading for Kyrie Irving.
First and foremost, if the Sixers were to acquire Harden, they almost certainly wouldn’t do so in a direct trade with Dallas. James Harden and Luka Doncic are about the worst star pairing one could draw up due to their repetitive game styles and although the Mavricks would love to pair Luka with another star, this isn’t the way.
So when looking at third teams to bring in, the Phoenix Suns make sense due to their supposed interest in James Harden and the Mavericks previously rumored interest in Deandre Ayton. While they have added two centers since those rumors, it would not be outrageous to suggest they value the former first overall pick above their rookie and veteran Richaun Holmes.
So that’s one issue out of the way but then there lies two largest issues, the contract for Kyrie Irving and accomplishing this trade under the new CBA.
First, if the Sixers, or any team, were to acquire Irving via sign-and trade, that would require Irving to sign a deal for three or four years. Considering Irving’s past volatility, it’s not likely the Sixers would be particularly enthralled about investing close to $200 million over the next four seasons into Irving.
Then there’s the issue of the new CBA. Under the old CBA, teams could acquire up to 125% plus $100,00 of the salary they were sending out in a deal whereas, starting July 1, that number becomes 110% plus $100,000. Since the move for Irving would be a sign-and-trade, it would have to wait until free agency opens, after July 1, to become official, meaning there is not much wiggle room in terms of salary for negotiation.
In short, trading Harden for Irving is far more trouble than it’s worth even thinking about.
James Harden trade #4: The Miami Heat
Surprisingly enough, that includes the Miami Heat, according to Shams Charania. Adimitedly no athlete screams Heat-culture like James Harden but still, this took some by surprise. Can a deal be worked out however?
While many would be quick to include Tyler Herro in a trade package for Harden, it seems the Heat are perfectly content to hold onto their young wing in hopes either his physical rehab goes well, or they can at least rehab his value.
No, instead of Tyler Herro, the matching salary could sensically come from Kyle Lowry. Though his play has been far from inspiring, Lowry’s leadership ability are of value, his expiring contract could either be used in a deal close to the deadline or would help free up major funds come free agency in 2024. Then there’s of course his connection to new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse to consider.
Lowry is far from the value of the deal though, which actually comes from the addition of 2023 playoff star Caleb Martin and two future first-round picks. Martin proved himself as a legitimate playoff piece on the Heat’s finals run and would ideally do the same for Philadelphia over at least the two remaining years on his contract.
The first round compensation is also quite the sweetner as it again would help the Sixers attempt to land a bigger fish ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline. The only complication is that due to the protections the Heat have placed on their 2025 first round pick, which they owe to Oklahoma City, the verbiage would have to be something to the affect of “at least two years after Miami conveys their 1st round pick to Oklahoma City…” similar to how the verbiage is for the Sixers 2027 first round pick that they owe to the Brooklyn Nets.
James Harden trade #5: The Los Angeles Clippers/Portland Trail Blazers
Finaly comes the fun one. In addition to Kyrie Irving, Brian Windhorst did mention Damian Lillard as an additional target for the Philadelphia 76ers in a James Harden trade. While an essential swap of Harden and Dame would be difficult, it would not be impossible.
The Clippers make sense again as the team to help facilitate this deal as they would acquire James Harden, move off of bad salary, and send draft compensation to the Sixers who would send and expiring contract in Harris, and young player in Springer, and their own draft compensation resulting in the Blaers netting two first round picks, three first round pick swaps from two teams who are in danger of imploding over the next few seasons, and a boatload of cap space in 2024. Additionally, the Blazers may be motivated to help Dame move east should he desire a trade.
Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes spoke on the possibility of Portland moving Damian Lillard and how they may approach such a situation, “If it gets to that point, they would consult with Dame. He’s been there 10 years, he’s been a model citizen, represented that city and organization with class. I think they would try to get him where he wants to go in the East.”
So if Lillard were for instance to decide to leave Portland and fancied teaming up with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, the Blazers could potentially desire to work with the Sixers on a deal? Well that sounds like music to the ears of Daryl Morey.