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Reports: Sixers to seek trade for Harden; Clippers, Knicks, Heat named among potential suitors

Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Marcus Morris, Norman Powell, Terance Mann? Draft picks? What type of trade package might the Sixers be targeting in a potential James Harden blockbuster?

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Los Angeles Clippers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Well, this took a turn. James Harden is opting in to his contract and the team will explore trades for the former league MVP.

Shams Charnia of The Athletic and Stadium broke the bombshell news story. And in his follow up report Shams added:

“James Harden is opting into his $35.6 million deal for next season in order for the 10-time NBA All-Star and the 76ers to work together on a trade out of Philadelphia, league sources told The Athletic.

The Clippers and potentially one more team are expected to emerge as interested franchises in trade talks with the 76ers, league sources say.

The 76ers made it clear throughout the process that the franchise did not see a long-term future with Harden, sources said.”

Shams would add Miami to the mix as well noting the trade process is already underway from Philadelphia’s end.

Harden turned down an extension worth more than $200M from the Brooklyn Nets back in the summer of 2021. Few doubted at the time that the three-time scoring champ would command an even bigger max offer the following summer. But he suffered another hamstring flare up and requested a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.

After yet another hamstring issue plagued him during the 2022 NBA Playoffs in a series vs. the Miami Heat, no max deal was agreed upon; instead, Harden took a one-year deal including a near $14M pay cut to help Daryl Morey and Elton Brand make room to add P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. in free agency.

Despite rumors all this past season long that Harden might have his sights set on returning to Houston, many believed that if he did opt to stay in Philly, he would make up some of those funds he left on the table and then some.

But he came up short in the playoffs once again and Charania’s report makes it sound as if the Sixers weren’t interested in meeting Harden’s desired price point.

We can only wonder how Joel Embiid feels about it all. After the team was eliminated he said “me and James can’t win alone.” But that was before Ramona Shelburne joined ESPN’s “NBA Today” a few weeks ago explaining:

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports tweeted about a potential return for The Beard, now on an expiring $35.6M deal.

Yeesh, trading with the Clippers but not landing Paul George?

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added the New York Knicks to our list of teams potentially interested.

But SNY’s Ian Begley notes that interest on the Knicks side is “far from uniform” within New York President Leon Rose’s front office.

Woj did report that it’s “expected that Harden has played his last game for Philadelphia,” but a Tweet from NBCS-Philadelphia gives the sense maybe that last part isn’t quite set in stone?

Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype notes there may be an incentive to strike a deal soon, in terms of salary matching:

But Woj hopped on ESPN and said he’s not sure how quickly this is going to go.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst jumped on “PTI” and the NBA Insider said he “would not be surprised if we see Kyrie [Irving] wanting to investigate what’s going on in Philadelphia if Harden moves out if there’s a window for him to come in. The other name here [for the Sixers] is Dame Lillard.”

Windy outlines a scenario where the Sixers could look to accumulate a few assets in a Harden deal and reroute them to a rebuilding team like the Portland Trailblazers, should they ever actually shop Damian Lillard.

I wonder if that’s also the rout they’d look to take in a deal with the Knicks. New York has more picks (to be shipped to a third team) than players the Sixers might be really intrigued by.

Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen explains that Harden may have thought the situation in Philly was untenable.

We’ll stay on top of this one for you. But for now, it sounds like the Clippers are the team with the most interest. But would that be to help them form a big three or break up their Kawhi Leonard-Paul George big two?

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