With the 2022 NBA draft over-with, the league calendar flips to free agency, which is set to begin officially on Thursday, June 30, at 6 p.m. ET. Of course, many around the league understand that free agency essentially begins whenever the regular season ends, as back channels are working year-round via agents and emessaries all the time, and many deals will be consummated at 6:00:01 to illustrate that fact.
The key players in this year’s free agency swim in a pool too pricey for our beloved Sixers — DeAndre Ayton, Miles Bridges, Jalen Brunson, (gulp) Kyrie Irving, et al.
The biggest question for Philly is what will happen will James Harden? The heavy-hitters in the industry seem to indicate that Harden will be back in red, white and blue, by opting into his $47 million option, and likely tacking on another two seasons after that as an extension. Though a more recent report has left the door open to The Beard opting out to give the team flexibility.
Beyond that, Daryl Morey has more work to do in order to reshape this Sixers roster which once again fell short in the playoffs. Smoke has been billowing in recent days that Miami Heat forward and well-known tough guy P.J. Tucker could be headed to Philadelphia on a three-year deal worth $30 million.
“Numerous rival teams, meanwhile, say with even more conviction now than they did last week when I first it reported on Wednesday— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) June 26, 2022
- that they expect P.J. Tucker to land in Philadelphia on a three-year, $30 million deal in free agency.” https://t.co/1UaM1lvYhd
The trouble is that the Sixers don’t currently have access to the full midlevel exception (or, the $10 million they’d need for the annual value of that reported deal). So if they’ve got a wink-wink deal with Tucker at that value, Morey must have some money moving out of Philadelphia as well.
The Sixers need to shed $11 million+ to gain access to the full MLE. If Harden opts in, which all signs point to, you’re looking at a Thybulle/Korkmaz/Milton trade or Tobias Harris being moved.— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) June 26, 2022
Keeping the Tucker situation and the simple fact that Morey still needs to make overall improvements to the roster in mind, let’s take a look at five fake Sixers trades which almost certainly will not happen with free agency set to begin this week.
Sixers swap Harris for Hayward while clearing the space for Tucker
In this trade, the Sixers accomplish the assumed goal of clearing the necessary cap space in order to sign Tucker to the reported contract we’ve discussed (Korkmaz’s contract makes that money work, especially). They’d sign Tucker and slot him into the starting four spot as their hounding, loose-ball-grabbing (phrasing), corner-three-shooting, intimidating force that Joel Embiid stated, himself, the Sixers have long been missing.
In swapping Tobias Harris for Gordon Hayward, Philadelphia wouldn’t be shedding all that much in dollars and the years are the same. Hayward is a more willing and more accurate shooter from beyond than Harris, which would help. But he gets hurt a ton, whereas Harris basically never misses time. Hayward hasn’t played more than 52 games due to injury since the 2018-2019 season.
Otherwise, on trading Tobias: he’s a good, not great player and a good guy, but this team needs to shake things up and with reports swirling that he’s already unhappy with his role as the fourth banana in the Embiid/Harden/Maxey pecking order, methinks it’s really time to go. And how good is a locker room leader really if the team struggles with effort of all things in an elimination Game 6 at home in the playoffs? It’s time.
But yeah, I don’t love this trade since I don’t love Hayward. But something to think about.
The other avenue to clearing the Tucker space
Ok, this one I really don’t like. But this is the other alternative for the Sixers to clear the necessary cap space to give Tucker the 3/30 contract — they’d have to trade role players on smaller salaries like Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton. I included Georges Niang here because otherwise the Sixers would essentially be hard-capped, and in this scenario with Tucker and Harris in tow, Niang’s minutes would caput anyway.
Now, I am all for trading Thybulle this summer. He can’t do anything on offense, and his defense is massively overrated. He’s unplayable in the playoffs. But simply salary dumping him, Korkmaz, Shake (who played mostly well in the playoffs) and Georges so that we can pay a 37-year-old $10 million a year feels like icky business to me. But I thought it necessary to include one like this since it’s reportedly something the Sixers are considering.
Recorded some PJ Tucker / Tobias / Harden contract talk here. pic.twitter.com/S756QvfghM— NBA Clinic ™️ (@NBAclinic) June 27, 2022
Sixers nab a young defense-first role player
Kenny Hustle! I love Kenrich Williams. Guy defends like all hell. I’m not sure if he would start for us — I’d imagine it would depend on how the rest of the offseason shook out — but with the Thunder adding three new rookies and Williams entering the final season of his deal, it could make sense for the Thunder to swap him for Korkmaz (still just 24, with two years remaining on his contract) and two-second rounders. Williams would bring some much needed hustle, energy and multi-positional defense to the Sixers. He also shot just about 34 percent on 2.5 tries from three last season, so he’s not a zero on that end, either. Needs to be a Sixer.
Harris for Barnes and Holiday
In this trade, Tobias Harris (who has always seemed in some ways like a Sacramento King) heads to Sacramento for a similar player in Harrison Barnes. The reasons I’m trading Tobi were mostly stated above, but I should note that Barnes’ deal is much smaller than Harris’ and is a year shorter, as well. Barnes is a better and more willing shooter from beyond than Harris, and he gets to the free throw line more often. I would say that throughout the league, in a vacuum, Tobias Harris is likely thought of as the better player, however, which is probably why the Kings might end up doing this trade — that and the distant first-rounder. Barnes would seem to fit in nicely with the Sixers’ core.
In this trade the Sixers’ also nab former Sixer Justin Holiday, a solid two-way rotational wing who knocks down threes and takes on tough assignments on defense.
An end-of-bench swap
Alright, full disclosure: this piece was originally set to finish on a trade where the Sixers landed Kevin Durant. I had a whole stanza written up about how much KD and Joel love each other, how I would begrudgingly part with Tyrese Maxey in the deal, and how the Sixers would need to include picks, Thybulle and Harris as well. It was pretty good writing, if I say so myself.
Then, Monday evening, Kyrie Irving opted into his deal in Brooklyn since every team on his list other than the Lakers didn’t want to trade for him, and the Lakers have nothing worth trading for, thus ensuring Durant will stay put for the meantime, rendering an already implausible trade utter fantasy.
So that’s how we end up here: a meh swap of Korkmaz for Garrett Temple. Sure, Temple is a frisky defender, decent shooter, and well-liked veteran leader who would help the Sixers in a pinch, and maybe Kork would regain his stroke in NOLA, but it’s not the finale for this piece I dreamed of for you folks.
Anyway, I hope you had fun nonetheless.
There you have it, five fake trades that will not come to fruition on the eve of free agency. Some Impossible Slop (shoutout TrillBroDude) for those of us staying vegan until Thursday.
Each of these trades were designed by yours truly on Fanspo.com