The James Harden Trade Was A Salary-Cap Masterstroke By The Sixers

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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 29: James Harden #1 and Tyrese Maxey #0 of nan Philadelphia ... [+] 76ers respond during nan first 4th against nan Portland Trail Blazers astatine Wells Fargo Center connected October 29, 2023 successful Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and aliases utilizing this photograph, User is consenting to nan position and conditions of nan Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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Nearly 4 months to nan time aft James Harden picked up his $35.6 cardinal subordinate action and requested a waste and acquisition from nan Philadelphia 76ers, he yet sewage his wish. The Sixers are sending Harden, P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrusev to nan Los Angeles Clippers for nan expiring contracts of Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Kenyon Martin Jr., 2 early first-round picks, a first-round prime switch and 2 second-round picks, according to aggregate reports.

Terance Mann, who had reportedly long been a sticking point betwixt nan 2 teams successful these waste and acquisition discussions, is staying put successful L.A. That mightiness for nan best, arsenic some nan Clippers and Sixers accomplished what they hoped for pinch this deal.

The Clippers sewage Harden without giving up Mann, which intends they now person a apical 8 of Harden, Tucker, Mann, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Norman Powell and Russell Westbrook. Their extent is somewhat shaky down those eight, and they're banking connected a number of players successful their mid-30s pinch lengthy wounded histories to enactment healthy, but there's nary denying their upside if they do.

Heading into nan season, nan Sixers and Clippers were tied pinch +2700 likelihood to triumph this year's NBA championship, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. After nan Harden trade, nan Clippers vaulted up to +1300, trailing only nan Boston Celtics (+370), Milwaukee Bucks (+410), Denver Nuggets (+500) and Phoenix Suns (+600). The Sixers dropped ever-so-slightly to +2800, though their likelihood are acold much taxable to alteration moving forward.

The Sixers simultaneously accomplished 2 goals pinch nan Harden trade: They gave themselves a chance to stay competitory this play while mounting themselves up to find a 3rd co-star to brace alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Their short-term outlook is murkier than nan Clippers', who look to beryllium much of a vanished product, but they now person acold much semipermanent optionality than they did 48 hours ago.

In mid-July, Sixers president Daryl Morey told Anthony Gargano of 97.5 The Fanatic that he was hoping to create that type of elasticity whenever he did waste and acquisition Harden.

"What we're attempting to do is person nan champion squad imaginable this year, but besides person nan expertise that, if we get into a next-season situation, to beryllium a very unsocial squad pinch nan astir headdress room of a squad that’s arsenic bully arsenic us," he said. "That's a very unsocial business to have."

The Sixers group nan shape for that scheme by holding disconnected connected an hold for fourth-year defender Tyrese Maxey, who's disconnected to a sizzling commencement to nan play successful nan absence of Harden. Had they signed Maxey to an extension, nan starting net of his caller woody would beryllium connected their books astatine nan opening of nan 2024-25 convention year. Instead, he'll person only a $13 cardinal headdress clasp until they re-sign him.

Since nan Sixers person Bird authorities connected Maxey, they're allowed to transcend nan net headdress to re-sign him. If they don't make a large move earlier adjacent summer, they'll first walk their remaining headdress abstraction and past re-sign Maxey afterward. In essence, they're manufacturing $20-plus cardinal successful headdress abstraction this way.

Prior to nan Harden trade, Sixers were already successful statement to person upward of $45 cardinal of headdress space, according to Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. After trading Tucker, who has an $11.5 cardinal subordinate action for nan 2024-25 season, nan Sixers are now successful statement to create much than $55 cardinal successful headdress space, arsenic ESPN's Bobby Marks laid out.

They'd person to renounce each of their impending free agents to create that overmuch room, including everyone whom they acquired from nan Clippers, on pinch Tobias Harris and De'Anthony Melton. But they're now a existent threat to manus retired a max statement to an outer free supplier adjacent summer, which nary different playoff contender tin do.

They mightiness not person to renounce everyone, though. Melton has a $15.2 cardinal headdress hold, truthful they could support him connected their books and still person northbound of $40 cardinal successful headdress space. Martin is besides a hidden gem successful that regard, arsenic he's projected to person a minuscule $2.1 cardinal headdress hold. That's little than $1 cardinal much than nan incomplete roster complaint (roughly $1.2 million) assigned for each subordinate less than 12 that a squad has.

Even if nan Sixers kept Melton and Martin's headdress holds connected their books on pinch Maxey, they could still person astir $41 cardinal to walk earlier re-signing each three. That wouldn't rather beryllium capable to springiness a max statement to personification pinch 7-9 years of NBA acquisition ($42.6 million) aliases 10-plus years ($49.7 million), but it wouldn't beryllium acold off, either.

The database of imaginable free agents has already begun to dwindle aft Anthony Davis, Jaylen Brown and a record-setting number of 2020 first-round picks agreed to extensions successful caller months. However, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Pascal Siakam, Klay Thompson and OG Anunoby are among nan players who could deed nan free-agent marketplace successful July. The Sixers are now lurking arsenic a existent threat to bargain immoderate of them from their respective teams.

If nan Sixers onslaught retired successful free agency, they could alternatively usage their headdress abstraction to facilitate a trade. The league's caller CBA contains strict salary-matching rules successful trades, peculiarly for teams supra either salary-cap apron, but teams beneath nan headdress aren't taxable to those restrictions. They tin return backmost immoderate statement without sending retired net arsenic agelong arsenic they stay nary much than $250,000 supra nan headdress aft nan deal.

They mightiness not hold that agelong to make their adjacent large move, though. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, "teams astir nan convention judge nan Sixers will beryllium progressive nan remainder of nan play to spot if they tin spell get different star-caliber player." Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated mentioned Chicago Bulls defender Zach LaVine and Toronto Raptors swingman OG Anunoby arsenic 2 "names to watch," and others are judge to look complete nan coming weeks.

With Embiid's semipermanent early successful Philadelphia potentially hanging successful nan balance, nan Sixers person to nail their adjacent moves. The Harden woody gave them acold much elasticity to find a 3rd co-star to brace pinch Embiid and Maxey either via waste and acquisition aliases free agency adjacent summer, though.

Unless different noted, each stats via NBA.com, PBPStats, Cleaning nan Glass aliases Basketball Reference. All net accusation via Spotrac aliases RealGM. All likelihood via FanDuel Sportsbook.


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