Yesterday in discussions about Harden and possibly what other team could possibly pursue him other than the Clippers, I began thinking about the Bulls. They are a team with some aged "star" players and a younger star, trying to win so pursuing Harden could be a last push year for contending. Then the following year Harden and Derozan are off the books so they could create roughly 70mil in cap space if they wanted to retool, or they could look to resign both if they do well and keep trying to win. There is also a trade that works that could net them without losing any of their big 3, Lavine, Derozan, or Vuc. This trade will likely turn some heads but here me out when I explain it
Bulls get Harden and Tucker
Sixers get Ball, Caruso, Williams, 2024 Bulls 1st top 5 protected, 2027 Bulls 1st top 5 protected
From the Bulls perspective, they get to keep their top 3 players while also adding a top 20-25 player and a decent wing role player. They would be rolling out a starting unit of Harden, Lavine, Derozan, Tucker, Vuc. They may struggle to defend but they will be one of the top scoring units in the league. They would still have some depth on the bench with White, Carter, Terry, Drummond.
On the surface it may look that they are giving up a lot for potentially 1 season of Harden, but they are saving 20mil for the next 2 years for moving off of Ball's contract which nobody knows when he will return and what level of play he will return to which is a big reason as to why the return is what it is. Caruso is a solid defensive guard but with already having White and Carter plus adding Harden, Caruso becomes more expendable. If the Bulls would rather trade While instead of Caruso to get the deal done I would probably be okay with that too. Williams would be a bit of a loss but he is on the last year of his rookie deal and who knows how much it will cost to retain him. With the 2 1sts, one of them would be next season which ideally for the Bulls would be a late 1st if things go the way they want with Harden. The other is more of a gamble but Lavine will still be in his prime years and the Bulls will have had cap space before then to retool.
From the Sixers perspective, they are taking a gamble no doubt. Ball will be 20mil on the books for this coming season and the following one and we already know he isnt coming back for this season. So if he still cannot come back for the 24-25 season, thats 20mil in cap space we cannot use in the 2024 offseason. There is also the potential he does come back but just isnt the same player he once was. However, there is also the potential hes comes back and plays close to what he played like before which for 20mil is a pretty good deal, and he would be an ideal back court pairing with Maxey. Caruso/White are decent role players whom would take up more cap space from the 2024 offseason, but we could also trade them if we wanted for more draft picks and restock out depleted cupboard. Williams would be a good get because Nurse could potentially unlock him and then we would have him as an RFA and could keep him. The 2 first are obviously good and could be useful to either acquiring players to win now via trade, or we use them to rebuild if Embiid wants out.
Lets take a look at what the Sixers team would look like for next season
Maxey, Melton, Williams, Tobi, Embiid
Caruso, Springer, House, Reed, Bamba
To me that looks like a solid 47-50 win team which probably puts us in the 3-5th seed.
Now lets look at the 2024 offseason. With Embiid, Reed, Springer, 2 1st round picks in the 20s (Ours and Bulls), Melton cap hold, Maxey cap hold, and the incomplete roster spot holders with estimated cap of 149.6mil, we would be looking at around 46.5mil in cap space. Now if we include Ball, Caruso, and Williams cap hold, we would be over the cap by around 14mil. Williams cap hold is a lot as a rookie coming off his deal is 300% of his salary. Now I know some will look at this and say this deal isnt good because it takes up all our cap space, however there are easy ways we can create cap space. We could resign Williams to a deal to greatly reduce his cap hold or we could just flat out let him walk. Letting him walk would put us at around +15mil in cap, or if we signed him to a 10-15mil deal then we would be at zero or around 5mil cap space. We also have Melton cap hold which we could let go for 15.2mi in cap space. We could also look to trade Caruso before FA starts for cap space and draft picks and clear up about 10mil. So lets say we wanted to create as much cap space as possible and release Melton, Williams, trade Caruso. That would put our cap space at around 41.7mil. So if we wanted, we could still create cap space for a max FA for next offseason if we wanted. Or we could put ourselves in a position where we only sign 1 year deals and basically roll over all of this cap space to the 2025 offseason. We would have the ability still even with this trade to create cap flexibility for the future.
So what do you all think? Considering both now and for the future, while this deal does have its risks for sure, it does have quite a bit of upside. Far more upside than any deal the Clippers could offer. Is this a deal that we should pursue in moving Harden? Is this the best deal we could do for Harden? In my opinion, I think this is a deal we should do.