The Philadelphia 76ers’ case for and against trading PJ Tucker

76ers Tobias Harris
LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 17: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21), Philadelphia 76ers Guard James Harden (1), Philadelphia 76ers Forward P.J. Tucker (17) and Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) huddle during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on January 17, 2023 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Rumors continue to fly around the Philadelphia 76ers this offseason. While typically, they focus on James Harden and even Joel Embiid; as of late, they have now started to leak about another player. NBA Insider Michael Scotto of HoopsHype has recently dropped some intel on the Sixers and their versatile forward PJ Tucker.

According to Scotto, Tucker “has come up in trade discussions between the 76ers and Clippers, league sources have told HoopsHype. The Clippers covet Tucker’s ability to guard multiple positions and defend the league’s top opposing scorers.”

76ers, PJ Tucker
Philadelphia 76ers forward P.J. Tucker (17) looks to shoot at the basket during the first half of Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series, Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

With Tucker and James Harden being longtime teammates and close friends, this is not surprising. Harden took a pay cut last offseason to give the 76ers enough cap room to sign PJ Tucker, and he may have only wanted to play in Philadelphia if Harden was going to be here long-term, as was originally expected.

Tucker has also had some questionable Instagram posts recently that have led the fans to conclude that he may not be happy with the current situation surrounding the Sixers. What would it look like if Tucker was dealt in a Harden trade? What is the Philadelphia 76ers’ case for and against dealing PJ Tucker?

Harden and Tucker head to the City of Angels

What could a trade look like to get both Tucker and Harden to the Clippers? Since both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are reportedly off limits, it would take pieces the Sixers could then potentially flip into an All-Star-caliber replacement. That means both of the Clippers’ remaining first-round picks, the first in 2028 and the second in 2030. In addition, bench scorer Norman Powell and versatile starter Terance Mann would likely interest Nick Nurse and the Sixers. Finally, Marcus Morris Sr. for salary matching purposes and a young player like Jason Preston to round out the deal.

76ers, PJ Tucker

Why the 76ers would include PJ Tucker in the deal

If PJ Tucker were to be included in a deal with James Harden, it would obviously be because the Clippers are interested in him and could pay a premium for his inclusion. Adding a player like Tucker, who does a lot of things to help contenders, could likely increase the assets received from the Clippers.

76ers, PJ Tucker
San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell (24) and Philadelphia 76ers forward P.J. Tucker (17) reach for the ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

The 76ers could try to pry away multiple first-round picks and Terance Mann, who the Clippers are reluctant to part with. If the team took back Norman Powell in a deal, they could get an instant contributor who could be flipped to a third team or at the trade deadline if needed. If Daryl Morey and the team decided to go a different route and wanted to swap Powell for another expiring contract, it would further fortify their plan to try to have max cap space next summer.

Why the 76ers wouldn’t include PJ Tucker in the deal

As great as that plan may sound, there are also reasons why the Sixers may not be so willing to move Tucker. Losing PJ Tucker in a deal with the Clippers could hurt Philadelphia on and off the court. Tucker’s fit with Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid may have bit a little clunky, but he provided intangibles that many other players couldn’t. Before his arrival, you didn’t see many Sixers diving on the floor, getting offensive rebounds, and showing extra effort. Some of those things don’t show up on the stat sheet, but it made a difference in close games when it mattered.

76ers, PJ Tucker
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, and P.J. Tucker, right, battle for the ball with Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, center, 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)

Tucker’s leadership off the court would be missed as well. Tucker helped be the glue to keep the locker room together during last season’s run. During a pivotal Game 4 against the Boston Celtics in the second round, Tucker scored an offensive putback and got fouled. Instead of going directly to the foul line, he went to Joel Embiid to offer some encouragement and to play better.

Whether Tucker is included in the trade or not, it looks like Philly will have to pivot from James Harden. It is only a matter of when, not if.