Sixers Trade Harden to Clippers Ending Saga 3 Games into Season
The Sixers have traded disgruntled star guard James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers, a team source confirmed to 97.3 ESPN.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was first to break the news, taking to X at 2 AM.
Veteran forward PJ Tucker and rookie big man Filip Petrusev will join Harden in Los Angeles. Wings Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nic Batum, and KJ Martin are going to Philadelphia in return.
But, the pillars of the deal are the draft assets coming to the Sixers. Philadelphia will reportedly receive a 2026 first-round pick via the Oklahoma City Thunder, a 2028 first-round pick, a 2029 pick swap, and two second-round picks.
The 2026 first-round pick via the Thunder was unprotected going to Oklahoma City. It's currently unknown whether any protections were added to it as a means of completing this deal. The 2028 first-round pick is unprotected.
To free a roster spot to complete the deal, the Sixers are reportedly waiving veteran wing Danny Green.
Assuming none of the incoming players are waived, the Sixers will go from wing depth perpetually being a problem to suddenly having a surplus of three-point-shooting veterans capable of solidifying Philadelphia's team defense on the wings, even if Martin is the only one with some individual defensive potential left to tap into.
It's more than fair to question how much Morris and Batum have left in the tank. On one hand, many in Los Angeles were calling for Morris to be removed from the starting lineup late last season because of poor play. Batum, on the other hand, announced in the summer that this season will be his last in the NBA.
There will be some intrigue in all of them because they're new faces. There's a chance that Morris and Batum contribute by nature of a change of scenery. But, you can bet Covington and Martin will resonate most with Sixers fans.
This is a return to where it all began for the fan-favorite Covington, who comes back to Philadelphia after stints with four other teams since being traded to Minnesota in 2018. As for Martin, he's still quite young and has the allure of vertical pop, even if he hasn't quite put it all together yet.
At the end of the day (or, in this case, in the beginning of the day), those players are salary filler. They all have one thing in common that is especially attractive for Philadelphia's future outlook - they're on expiring deals.
That tidbit is especially interesting when you couple it with Tucker's inclusion in the deal. Not only is Tucker's player option for more than $11.5 million next season off the books, but none of the returning players have obligations for 2024-25.
In other words, the Sixers freed up more money heading into the summer of 2024.
Be my guest to read into what Harden's departure says about Philadelphia's feelings for budding star guard Tyrese Maxey. By all accounts, they adore Maxey. But, this deal getting done after Maxey took a blowtorch to the first three teams the Sixers faced feels coincidental.
According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, this was about getting the additional first-round pick - the one via the Oklahoma City Thunder.
From the moment news broke about Harden requesting a trade, the idea was to trade him for someone who was a star or to get the requisite assets to eventually win the bid when one becomes available in the future.
The endless cycle of reports about what the Sixers coveted in a Harden trade ultimately painted a very convoluted picture of what Philadelphia ultimately wanted from the Clippers. There's been a suggestion that they wanted picks and salary filler; there's been a suggestion that they wanted picks and prized Clippers role player Terance Mann.
What matters most is that the Sixers received two future first-round picks and a pick swap. And when it comes to future first-round picks and trading a star-level player, the focus is on betting against a team being good in the long run even if you might be helping them get better in the short-term.
Sure, the Clippers might be awesome this year. They may be awesome next year, too. But, with an aging Harden reinforcing the core of the aging and often-injured Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, I don't know if anyone can bet on them beyond next season.
First-round picks are generally always valuable. We won't know how valuable the 2026 first-round pick is until we know whether or not there are any protections on it. The 2028 unprotected first-round pick should be immensely valuable right now because of how the Clippers are perceived. It will be immensely valuable in a few years when the 2028 draft isn't so far away and the top prospects become clearer.
The Sixers might not have the artillery today that they had yesterday. But, they're now positioned to be amongst the favorites to land the next star that becomes available. In acquiring potentially two unprotected first-round picks, they've slightly reopened a title window that was perhaps inches away from being slammed shut. It's what they do with those picks now that makes or breaks their future.
In the meantime, they'll hand the keys to Maxey. We'll never truly know whether they believed in him as a lead guard before making this trade. But, clearly, the Sixers are confident enough about what they have under Nick Nurse and Joel Embiid, Maxey, and Tobias Harris that they didn't feel compelled to acquiesce to Harden's style of play and change what has been working to welcome him back to the rotation.
And so, on the day that he was expected back at practice in anticipation of a potential season debut on Thursday, James Harden is instead packing his bags for Los Angeles.
Check Out Greater Atlantic City, NJ Area Athletes Who Played Games In NFL
Gallery Credit: Joshua Hennig/Townsquare Media