I know we’re all tired of the near-daily updates on the will-they, won’t-they saga that is James Harden’s trade request (not a demand). However, if we accept Harden heading to the Clippers as a fait accompli, what the structure of the deal will eventually look like is of interest. This morning, we got some additional insight into the Clippers’ side of things, courtesy of Michael Scotto of HoopsHype:
“PJ Tucker, Harden’s longtime teammate with the Rockets and Sixers, has come up in trade discussions between the 76ers and Clippers, league sources told HoopsHype. The Clippers covet Tucker’s ability to guard multiple positions and defend the league’s top opposing scorers. Tucker is owed $11 million this upcoming year and has a $11.54 million player option for the 2024-25 season.
It’s worth noting Harden previously took less money to give Philadelphia added financial flexibility to pry Tucker away from the Heat in free agency in July of 2022. When Harden did so, many around the league assumed Sixers executive Daryl Morey – who’s previously been Harden’s biggest advocate – would take care of his star player financially down the line, which hasn’t happened. Current negotiations have since led to a “fractured” relationship between Harden and Morey, per Shams Charania.”
In acquiring Harden on an expiring contract to add to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, who both have player options next offseason, the Clippers would be in pure win-now mode. So adding the 38-year-old Tucker would make sense from that regard. Tucker could definitely help take some of the defensive burden on the wings away from George and Leonard, allowing them to stay healthier and conserve energy on the offensive end.
Unloading Tucker could make sense for the Sixers by avoiding the (likely) possibility of his picking up his own $11.5 million player option next summer, thereby opening up even more cap space in 2024, which appears to be Daryl Morey’s primary focus. However, this could further miff star center Joel Embiid, who was a very vocal proponent of Philadelphia signing Tucker in the first place and has been an advocate for what the veteran brings to the table for the Sixers. With Embiid already on the record of wanting Harden to come back, could losing Tucker as well make those rumored frustrations with the franchise more of a reality?
Speaking of which, Scotto also spilled some digital ink on the whole Embiid topic:
“Meanwhile, teams around the league – especially the New York Knicks – are monitoring how the Harden saga plays out in Philadelphia and will affect the happiness of MVP Joel Embiid. The Knicks have long admired Embiid and have significant draft capital to dangle. Embiid’s former agent was Leon Rose, who now leads New York’s front office.
Should Embiid ever demand a trade, it’s worth noting the Miami Heat has one of his good friends, Jimmy Butler, and a potentially intriguing trade chip in All-Star center Bam Adebayo to dangle, in theory.”
It’s funny how thirsty the Knicks are in these Embiid rumors. There are probably at least a dozen teams that could blow a Knicks trade offer out of the water if the Sixers ever did decide to take the nuclear option and blow up the franchise. R.J. Barrett isn’t cutting it, friends. Then, I’m not sure what the Heat would have left after an already bare cupboard was stripped down to the studs in a Dame Lillard deal. Bam is an outstanding player, but there would be nothing remaining in the Heat war chest to round out a deal. Must be nice to have a beach and no state tax and just assume things will come your way.
I’m sure we’ll have our next Harden breadcrumb before too long. Until then, go nuts and throw P.J. Tucker into the trade machine and come up with your favorite deal. It’s going to be a long summer.