Tobias Harris could be an attractive trade target by 2024 NBA Trade Deadline

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris (12) gestures after making a 3-point shot during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets Saturday, April 22, 2023, in New York. The 76ers won 96-88. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Most NBA teams in the league have at least one player on the roster who is seemingly shopped, or at least made available, at every single trade deadline. Before he was dealt to the Utah Jazz, the Atlanta Hawks had John Collins. Myles Turner was the perennial deadline piece for the Indiana Pacers right up until he signed a lucrative two-year, $60 million extension. For the Philadelphia 76ers, that guy has been Tobias Harris.

Tobias Harris
Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris (12) goes up to shoot against Boston Celtics’ Al Horford (42) and Derrick White (9) as 76ers’ Joel Embiid watches during the second half of Game 3 in an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Friday, May 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

While it’s understandable why Tobias, and his dad, might feel slighted seeing his name pop up in rumors and mock trades year in and year out, it’s also sort of a compliment. Aside from Talen Horton-Tucker and other victims of the LeBron James trade asset propagandization machine, players that are consistently included in trade rumors are most likely deemed as valuable pieces that could serve a strong purpose on multiple other teams.

Even the most deranged critic of Tobias Harris has to admit that his shortcomings with the Sixers are more indicative of his fit and utilization with this core than his actual inabilities. As a forward who can score at all three levels and survive on defense against even the most elite wings in the NBA, Harris is a commodity that would add value to any roster in the league. The only thing that has held him back from drawing premium trade interest has been his contract: a five-year, $180 million deal that he signed with Philadelphia back in 2019, one that has been burdening the team’s checkbooks for nearly a half-decade now.

With the NBA Players Association’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league’s governors taking effect on July 1, 2023, Tobias Harris and his contract suddenly became a positive asset in hypothetical trades instead of a detraction that might have needed sweeteners attached to it to pull off a deal. The CBA and its new second apron that invokes heavy penalties for teams splurging well above the salary cap have already incentivized multiple teams to dump some of their heftier contracts to dodge potential repercussions — and more salary dump candidates could be joining the list before the deadline.

This offseason, franchises that found themselves above the second apron would have been stripped of their taxpayer midlevel exception, a valuable tool for cap-exceeding teams to add talent in the past, and would have been prohibited from taking more than 110 percent of the salary they were sending out in any trade.

By the 2024-2025 NBA season, the full bevy of penalties will be laid on any team above the second apron, including the inability to aggregate salaries in a trade, to include future first-round picks that are open to teams below the line, and other sanctions.

This makes Tobias Harris’s nearly $40 million expiring contract for this season a significant asset for organizations in danger of surpassing the second apron next year. While it should have probably motivated some teams to trade for him this offseason, Harris will become even more of a commodity closer to the trade deadline.

By February, any squad that’s spending above the salary cap but still underperforming should view Tobi as a way to both shake up their roster and as insurance for a potential detonation of their expensive core. Trading for Tobias Harris and his expiring deal at the deadline would allow the team acquiring him to make a push for the playoffs or title while opening the door for a reset if needed in the 2024 offseason.

Who could benefit by acquiring Tobias Harris?

Tobias Harris
Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris reacts after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

There’s no shortage of NBA franchises that could be in this exact situation come the trade deadline. According to Spotrac, here’s a full list of the teams they expect to be over the salary cap then:

  • Phoenix Suns (projected -$63.6 million in cap space)
  • Denver Nuggets (-$35.85 million)
  • Milwaukee Bucks (-$31.85 million)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (-$25.46 million)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (-$18.77 million)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (-$17.26 million)
  • Dallas Mavericks (-$16.91 million)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (-$15.76 million)
  • Miami Heat (-$14.84 million)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (-$13.4 million)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (-$9.32 million)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (-$1.06 million)
  • Atlanta Hawks (-$100K)

For those unfamiliar with Count von Count’s segment on Sesame Street, that’s nine Western Conference teams vying for six guaranteed playoff spots. Should one or more of them approach the trade deadline in danger of falling into the Play-In Tournament or out of the postseason altogether, they should be highly motivated to move for a 3-and-D plus wing like Tobias Harris that will clear nearly $40 million off of their books come season’s end.