For over six months, we’ve been led to believe that James Harden would either re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers or return to the Houston Rockets this summer. It turns out there was a Plan C all along.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Sixers are looking to accommodate Harden with a trade after he picked up his $35.6 million player option. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Clippers and Knicks are expected to show interest.
There could be more teams that generate interest, but the Clippers seem like the most viable one so far. That’s because they have a need for a playmaker like Harden, they have the salaries to match for him, and they have different asset types to interest the Sixers.
Here is what a Clippers trade for Harden could look like.
Los Angeles Clippers
Before we get into anything, it’s important to note that the timing of a potential trade is key. Teams would need to send back $28.5 million to match for Harden with his 15 percent trade bonus under the current trade rules. This could motivate projected big spenders like the Clippers to get a deal done by June 30.
Otherwise, teams below the $172.3 million first apron would need to send out $32.6 million to match for him, while above it would need to send $37.3 million. Thankfully, the Clippers have enough salaries to match for Harden as a first apron team, if needed.
The Clippers have a variety of ways they could acquire Harden with their many high-salaried players. The question is, what kind of package will the Sixers require? The Clippers could send a combination of their role players to form a big three around Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George.
To accomplish that, they could match salaries with a combination of Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, and Robert Covington. They could also include a combination of young players like Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, Brandon Boston Jr., Kobe Brown, and first-round picks in 2028 and 2030.
But what if the Sixers require an All-Star back? Paul George would slide nicely into their lineup and allow Tyrese Maxey to be the full-time point guard. The Clippers have enough tradeable salaries to be able to acquire Tobias Harris along with Harden. Maybe a George and Powell for Harden and Harris framework would make sense.
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Source: Yahoo Sports