We’ve been monitoring the James Harden situation for what feels like an eternity now. We’ll get to the latest between the Sixers and Clippers shortly.
But first, let’s take a step back. Earlier this offseason, the 10-time All-Star wanted a sizable long-term deal to play in Philadelphia or Houston. Houston turned elsewhere. Next, the Sixers reportedly went radio silent on him. So he opted in to the final year of his contract, simultaneously issuing an unhappy trade request. He wants to be a Clipper and there is some mutual interest on their end in L.A. Sadly, the circumstances remind many of us of the Ben Simmons trade stalemate from a couple years ago. And that hasn’t helped matters much when it comes to fan enjoyment.
We’ve reached the depression stage of things. In our recent poll, 51 percent of fans gave the team’s offseason a D or F grade so far. Woohoo.
The good news is that the team was able to retain Paul Reed on a three-year $23M deal. They were somehow able to convince Tyrese Maxey (and his agent Rich Paul) to accept delaying for 12 months a (perhaps) near max extension until next summer, giving the team future cap flexibility.
(Remember, there is a scenario where Daryl Morey and co. can muster up a max contract offer next summer’s free agent class because of Maxey’s team-first attitude and patience).
But they signed all of Reed, Mo Bamba and Montrezl Harrell. That’s three precious roster spots mostly devoted to backing up the league’s reigning MVP. They signed Pat Beverley after letting Shake Milton, Georges Niang, and Jalen McDaniels all walk.
So it makes sense that with a meh shake up, combined with the trade stalemate, fans are grading harshly. But where do things stand now on the James Harden trade front?
ESPN NBA reporter Ohm Youngmisuk and Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne joined Malika Andrews on “NBA Today” Monday to discuss the latest on a potential Harden-Clippers trade scenario.
“I think the Clippers are in like wait-and-see mode. They’re monitoring the situation just like they are monitoring Damian Lillard. They might not have a legit chance at it but I think they have more of a chance with James Harden if the Sixers decide to trade him, ‘cause Harden wants to play there. The thing is, the Clippers are just wondering do the Sixers want to trade him? .... Everything I’ve been hearing, they want to kind of hold onto Terrance Mann.... I’m not saying they’re not gonna trade Terance Mann. If the Sixers say ‘hey, if you want James Harden, you’re gonna have to give us Terance Mann, and a whole bunch of people,’ I think that’s a conversation for later. But if they have their way, they want to hold onto Terance Mann.”
Youngmisuk added that the Clips are moving into a new arena the season after next, and that their brass would love at least some young talent in the building just in case Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (now both one-year deals that include player options for 2024-2025) aren’t around long-term. We’d guess owner Steve Ballmer will try to extend them both, but who knows how that all plays out?
Mann will turn 27 this fall, so he shouldn’t really be regarded as a young prospect anymore. But he’s entering his prime, he’s athletic, and at 6-foot-5 with a plus-wingspan, he would certainly help a glaring need on the wing for the 76ers. Remember, when last we saw Jayson Tatum, dude dropped 51 points, sending the Sixers fishing for the summer.
Speaking of fish....
Latest Ben Simmons fishing update which is what I know you all follow me for pic.twitter.com/NZzozxeU7B— Kylie Cheung (@kylietcheung) July 31, 2023
One would imagine Daryl Morey would insist upon acquiring Mann in any potential Harden trade with L.A. Mr. Stat Stuffer drained 39 percent of his 2.4 three-point attempts last season, while averaging 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists (all per 36 minutes), offering Bruce Brown-like Swiss Army versatility.
The Clippers can also offer up to two first-round draft picks and salary-filler vets like Norman Powell (Norm’s long-term deal may be a non-starter if Morey has visions of cap space next summer), and expiring deals like Nic Batum, Process legend Robert Covington and local product Marcus Morris.
Per Shelburne, on the same segment, there may be other teams besides L.A. in the mix as well:
“I think the Sixers have been pretty clear in that they’re going to entertain conversations for James Harden because he has asked them to....[Daryl Morey], he’s also made it very clear we’re not going to trade James Harden for anything less than a player that they think puts them on the same percentage to win a championship....or a package that they can then use to get a player like that and as you know that’s hard to get. And I don’t think they’re in any hurry to do that when they have interest from the Clippers and a couple other teams, but nothing that’s blown them away.”
We have heard the Knicks linked to The Beard at one point, but perhaps that was just a perfunctory call made by Leon Rose. Are you literally giving him away, I do have Evan Fournier?
Youngmisuk uses phrases like maybe that’s “a conversation for later,” and Shelburne reminds us the Sixers are in no hurry. All of that meshes with what we’ve mostly known. Things are not heating up. Morey wants a player as good or better than Harden, or a trade bundle big enough to go get a stud. So...who might that even be? Dame?
Damian Lillard has made clear he only wants to be a member of the Heat. Might that change with the league’s memo warning against his apparent superteam-or-bust attitude?
Could two Clippers firsts and one Sixers first and a bunch of swaps get them in the ballpark for Dame? Probably not without including Tyrese Maxey, based on the latest out of Miami:
“The Heat have been preparing a trade package around 3 to 4 first-round draft picks, potential draft swaps, second-round picks, a young player potentially,”— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) July 31, 2023
Shams Charania with the latest on the Heat’s trade package for Damian Lillard
But Morey also knows James isn’t afraid to turn himself into a disgruntled and mopey burden to get what he wants. That’s precisely how Daryl acquired The Beard from Brooklyn. So it’s a very tricky situation.
A championship ring in Philly would really cement Harden’s legacy as an all-time legend. But if he forces a trade by showing up Nick Nurse in camp, or showing up out of shape, and still can’t get a title on his resume, then his legacy would take a really big hit, cementing a very particular reputation as a phenomenal regular season player who ultimately came up short and lacked commitment.
We’ll probably get a few more updates over the week.