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Before we dive into some James Harden ideas, let’s start with Shams on what happened yesterday.
Latest news from Shams
Horton, 76 working to discover trade
Before NBA free agency began, James Harden shook things up.
as Athletic First announced Thursday afternoon, Harden opted out of his $35.6 million contract for next season, joining the 10-time NBA All-Star and 76ers in a trade from Philadelphia.
League sources tell me that the Clippers and Heat could potentially emerge as a fit for Harden, but the Clippers are favored and, at the moment, the most likely target in a very fluid situation.
The 76ers have already begun the process of discussing contracts for Harden with teams including the Clippers, league sources explained in conversations. The 76ers made it clear throughout the process that ownership did not see a long-term future with Harden, sources told me.
For more on the situation in Philadelphia and how it broke down, read and follow Sam Amick’s latest AthleticA report on the developing situation. As the free agency floodgates open today at 6pm ET, follow along here with the latest news and analysis as things unfold.
For the rest of the free-agency preview, return to Sack.
What would the potential deals look like?
In light of yesterday’s news, I thought it would be fun to come up with some good and/or completely ridiculous trade ideas to get Harden out of Philadelphia. He has thoughts and prayers for Daryl Morey at this difficult time of having to trade a favorite player.
Once again, I remind aggregators that these are not just trading ideas and reports. Thank you for your service.
Trade 1: Harden Goes Back to Houston (Country Roots, Take Me Home…)
Sixers get Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Ja’Sean Tate
Rockets gain hardness
The Rockets would still have the flexibility to sign Fred VanVleet in this scenario (they seem to have closed the door on Harden). It will be hard to drop the Greens, but they drafted Amen Thompson.
Trade 2: Harden becomes a Clipper
Sixers get Paul George, Norman Powell, Marcus Morris Sr.
Rockets get Harden, Tobias Harris
Yes, we tried to trade Harris to Desert Snacks earlier this week, but now we’re moving him back to the Clippers, where he’s thrived. The Sixers keep George competitive, and they get more depth. Harden heads back to LA to help Kawhi Leonard win.
Trade 3: Harden for Miami (Get this man a ring!)
Sixers: Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, two first-round picks, two second-round picks
Maybe you could trade Tyler Hero for Lowry, but it’s mostly about getting Martin on a good deal and valuable draft picks starting in 2027. The Heat are moving away from Damian Lillard trying to bring in Harden instead.
Trade 4: Hardening for Boston
Sixers Jaylen Brown
Celtis Harden receives
The internet has been trying to separate Brown and Jayson Tatum for years. Well, we actually did. Boston’s old banners will cheer on Harden in the postseason.
Trade 5: Hardening for Chicago (mix deck chairs on Titanic)
The Sixers got Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso
Bulls get Harden, D’Anthony Melton
I really hate this trade, but it looks like the Bulls are trying to deal LaVine, so I decided to give it a try.
Trade 6: Hardening for Portland (Let’s Look Different)
Sixers got Anfernie Simons, Scoot Henderson
Blazers get Harden
Simmons gives the 76ers another scorer next to Tyrese Maxey and Philly’s point guard of the future. The Blazers get a great talent next to the dam that still doesn’t work.
Trade 7: Make it tough on the Knicks
Sixers get RJ Barrett, Josh Hart, Emmanuel Quigley, 2024 from Dallas
The Knicks get Harden
I can’t in good faith offer Julius Randle in a trade like this because Philly can’t pass it up. But the Sixers will get decent depth and a first-rounder from Dallas. Harden and Jalen Brunson became a stellar backcourt.
See: Dave Dufour and Andrew Schlegd have their own trading ideas!
Biggest free agent questions
Key players to watch
Free agency begins today at 6 p.m. ET, and the news will be fast and furious. Make sure you follow Shams, Sam Amick and AthleticThe entire NBA staff for updates.
Here are five key role players who could really rock this first weekend. Maybe more than Harden.
- Kyle Kuzma: He could command more than $30 million annually, and the Kings or Rockets could pay him.
- Bruce Brown Jr.: The Lakers hope to be able to get him, but the Pacers have room to steal him.
- Brooke Lopez: Could a big offer from the Rockets really pry him away from Milwaukee?
- Maximum Stress: Streaky shooter, but that Heat culture role player is going to get a lot of attention on the open market.
- Seth Curry: Every competitor should try to get this sharpshooter in their team.
Funniest free agency story ever
Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes gave us a fascinating story yesterday that Kyrie Irving wants to meet with the Phoenix Suns when free agency begins today. Irving is an unrestricted free agent, and the thought of putting him in a center of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal would be insane offensive firepower. This brings me to the immediate question:
What the real @%#&?
There are plenty of things I don’t understand about the new CBA, but I know how to count. And counting Kyrie to the idea of joining Phoenix doesn’t sound like a friend. A sign-and-trade is possible and would undoubtedly involve Deandre Ayton going to Dallas, but the deal stiffens the Suns by $172 million (the first luxury tax apron).
The Suns’ big three payrolls already add up to $130 million, and they have to fill the list. Even if Irving takes a $30 million waiver, that leaves about $6 million to fill the remaining seven roster spots if someone is found to take Cam Payne in a trade. Or is Irving threatening Dallas with this idea and forcing the Mavs to max out? Or he might be willing to sign with Phoenix Very much Salary less than what he earns.
Either way, it feels like a bad bluff.
David Aldridge wonders if the Blazers believe in miracles.
Sam Vezeny liked the Blazers draft and wasn’t a big fan of what Orlando did. Here are his 2023 draft grades.
Harrison Barnes agreed to a $54 million extension with the Kings.
Do the Wolves have a real chance to land some key players in free agency?
Rob Mahoney calls it the summer of the flawed free-agent point guard.
Las Vegas is aces The Super team in the WNBA.
(Photo: Bob DiChiara / USA Today)