The NBA’s Slop SZN (TM TrillBroDude) unofficially began on Dec. 15, which is the date when most players who signed with teams in free agency this past offseason became trade-eligible. However, the Sixers have been noticeably absent from the league’s rumor mill so far.
In mid-November, both Shams Charania of The Athletic and Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Sixers had brought up Tobias Harris in trade conversations with teams around the league. Beyond that, there’s been…well, nothing.
Are team president Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand asleep at the wheel? Doubtful. Are they waiting until Tyrese Maxey returns so they can evaluate the roster at full strength before making any major decisions? Possible.
But money may be the main reason why the Sixers aren’t popping up in more trade rumors yet.
The Sixers hard-capped themselves this past offseason by signing P.J. Tucker using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception and Danuel House Jr. via the bi-annual exception. That means they aren’t allowed to cross the league’s $156,983,000 luxury-tax apron at any point between now and June 30. At the moment, the Sixers have $151.4 million in salary on their books, which leaves them roughly $5.5 million below the apron. That gives them plenty of flexibility leading up to the trade deadline, but that isn’t the only restriction of which they need to be mindful.
Since the Sixers are currently over the $150.3 million luxury-tax threshold, they can take back only 125 percent of the salary they send out in any trade, plus $100,000. However, they’re top-heavy in terms of salaries, which leaves them devoid of the middle-sized contracts that typically help facilitate trades. Harris ($37.6 million), Joel Embiid ($33.6 million), James Harden ($33.0 million), Tucker ($10.5 million) and De’Anthony Melton ($8.3 million) are the only Sixers players earning more than $5 million this season. Beyond that quintet, Furkan Korkmaz ($5 million) and Matisse Thybulle ($4.4 million) are their two highest-paid players.
Further complicating matters, the Sixers don’t have a ton of future draft picks that they can offer to sweeten trade packages. They owe their unprotected 2023 first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets, and they owe lightly protected firsts to the Oklahoma City Thunder (2025) and Nets (2027). Since the Stepien Rule prevents teams from being without first-round picks in back-to-back years, their hands are tied through at least 2028. And since teams can’t trade picks more than seven years in the future, the Sixers can’t be selling off mid-2030s first-rounders yet.
The league office also stripped the Sixers of their second-round picks in 2023 and 2024 for tampering with Tucker and House (#TheyHateTheProcess), and the Sixers already owe their 2025 second-round pick to OKC and their 2026 second-rounder to either OKC, the Miami Heat or the Houston Rockets. They are owed the most favorable 2023 second-rounder from the Nets, Atlanta Hawks or Charlotte Hornets this year—in other words, the Hornets’ pick—but they otherwise can’t trade a single pick until 2027 at the earliest.
The lack of draft-pick sweeteners and salary-matching contracts along with the hard cap complicate the Sixers’ path to any major trade.
If the Sixers packaged Korkmaz and Thybulle’s contracts together, they could take back $11.8 million of salary in a trade. That would be enough to cover Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder ($10.2 million), Detroit Pistons guard Alec Burks ($10.0 million) or a reunion with Pistons center Nerlens Noel ($9.2 million), but Pistons wing Bojan Bogdanovic ($19.6 million) or Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon ($19.6 million) would still be well outside of their price range. They’d have to include some combination of House ($4.1 million), Georges Niang ($3.5 million), Montrezl Harrell ($2.5 million), Jaden Springer ($2.1 million), Shake Milton ($2.0 million) or Paul Reed ($1.8 million) to acquire someone making around $20 million or more.
If they’re eyeing a bigger deal—such as for Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins—it would almost have to include Harris for salary-matching purposes. But good luck finding a Harris trade that makes sense for both sides.
Harris is overpaid as a fourth banana when the Sixers are at full strength, but his adaptability has helped them dig out of an early-season hole. He moved into more of a primary scoring role when Harden, Embiid and Maxey were sidelined, but he’s slid right back into being a catch-and-shoot sniper with Harden and Embiid back. Although he won’t ever be a lockdown defender like OG Anunoby, he’s giving notable effort on that end while knocking down a career-high 42.0 percent of his three-point attempts.
Perhaps Harris’ stint as a focal point could intrigue teams in need of more top-end talent, but his $37.6 million salary this year and $39.3 million salary next year hampers whatever trade value he might have. The Sixers aren’t in a position to be shedding additional assets to move off Harris unless they’re getting a clear upgrade in return, though.
That isn’t to say that the Sixers will stand pat at the trade deadline. Once Maxey returns, they’ll hopefully get to see the roster at relatively full strength for a few weeks. That could help inform the front office about the biggest priorities to address either via trades or free-agent signings.
The current state of the NBA standings likely isn’t helping the rumor mill, either. There’s only a seven-game gap separating the No. 1 seed Memphis Grizzlies from the No. 13 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to get some separation on the rest of the East, but there are only six games separating the No. 6 seed New York Knicks and No. 13 seed Orlando Magic.
The Pistons, Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and San Antonio Spurs should be clear sellers at the deadline. The Magic, Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls could soon join them, as could the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors because of Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry’s recent injuries, respectively.
Once the standings stop being so bunched together, the rumor mill should start churning with more names. But before you go wasting days on your favorite trade machine, keep the Sixers’ hard-cap and salary-matching restrictions in mind. Above all else, the financials will likely be their biggest obstacle at the trade deadline.