The Los Angeles Clippers are reportedly pursuing a trade for Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Harden has opted into the second year of his $35.6 million player option and is working with the Sixers on a trade to a new destination.
The Clippers, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat have all been linked to Harden in potential trade scenarios, but none have made any significant traction as of Thursday night. As it stands, it appears the Clippers are the furthest along in any trade discussions for James Harden, and they likely prefer to have to be done within the next 24 hours before the new CBA kicks in.
With that, let's look at the offer the Clippers have to make the Sixers in order to land James Harden and pair him with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
• Marcus Morris Sr.
• Robert Covington
• Amir Coffey
• 2024 2nd round pick
• 2028 first round pick
• James Harden
First off, let's address one thing: There's a lot of leverage being thrown around in these discussions so far.
James Harden was looking for a significant contract offer from the Philadelphia 76ers this offseason or he would hit unrestricted free agency with the Houston Rocket fresh on his mind. He did not get the contract offer he was looking for, and GM Daryl Morey appears to have called Harden on his bluff, so the former Sixers guard opted in to the 2023-24 option worth $35.6 million.
James Harden would still like to play elsewhere and has requested a trade, but the Sixers are reportedly not willing to simply trade Harden for spare parts, nor should they. So while they can't just trade him for next to nothing, they also cannot afford to keep an unhappy star around heading into the new league year when the new CBA kicks in. Philly likely wants to move on from this as quickly as possible to behind roster construction around Joel Embiid under new head coach Nick Nurse. Other teams know that the Sixers' backs are sort of up against the walls, and that's going to affect trade offers for Harden.
According to a report from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday afternoon, the Clippers would like to retain their young players in any potential trade involving Harden. That likely rules out the inclusion Terance Mann and Bones Hyland.
“The most prominent team out there with James Harden is the Los Angeles Clippers,” said Wojnarowski of the Clippers-James Harden situation. “They have been on the search for a point guard to lead that group. There's a real opportunity for them to bring Russell Westbrook back in free agency. He was outstanding for them, but Harden would bring a different dimension
“I think this is a Clippers team that is not gonna be interested in trading their good young players. Is there a deal with expiring contracts or a future draft pick? The Sixers are gonna want to get some value back for James Harden. I think New York is also a team to watch.”
"The most prominent team out there with James Harden is the Los Angeles Clippers. They have been on the search for a point guard to lead that group."@wojespn on James Harden’s situation with the Sixers.
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 29, 2023
Shortly after this news dropped, The Rally's Shams Charania reported that the Miami Heat were another team that was intrigued with a potential trade for James Harden. Were the Sixers disappointed with the Clippers initial trade offer and tried to involve the Heat to get them to up their offers? Who knows, but you can't rule anything out nowadays.
A trade package of Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, and Amir Coffey makes the money work, and the Clippers can throw in their 2028 first rounder and one of the two 2024 second round picks.
Marcus Morris is a Philly native and has been trying to get to the Sixers for some time. His play dramatically dropped off in the second half of the 2022-23 season, and he was unhappy throughout the final few months. Maybe a return home in a new city can help his game out.
Robert Covington did not get the role he was told he would get with the Clippers, and Daryl Morey traded for him once back in Houston. A fresh start for Covington could be exactly what he needs, and he seems like a perfect fit in Nick Nurse's system. It would also be a return to Philly for Covington, who played four-and-a-half seasons with the Sixers from 2014 to 2018.
Amir Coffey would help make the financials work and he's a solid role player on a good contract that Philly can probably play. His ability to play multiple positions, defend, and hit the three-point shot is one that Nick Nurse could find use for. Coffey had some strong stretches for the Clippers, but was never able to carve out a significant role in the rotation due to other veterans on the team.
The 2028 NBA Draft is five years far away, and trading away first rounders for a soon-to-be 34-year old James Harden is certainly questionable. However, if it allows you to keep both Terance Mann and Bones Hyland, two of their more promising players behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, you probably have to do it. The Clippers will likely want to remain competitive, and given their lack of success with late first round draft picks, it wouldn't be the end of the world. For a team that does not have it's 2025 or 2027 first round picks, the Sixers could find that useful.
Lastly, the Clippers have two 2024 second round picks coming in: one from the Raptors and another that'll convey from the Pacers, Jazz, or Cavs. Either one of those to cap off the package would work as those rarely turn into a significant piece.
Is that enough from the Clippers to get a deal done? Probably not if you're the Sixers. But James Harden will become a free agent after the 2023-24 season and is not extension eligible. If he wants to go to the Clippers, any other team he goes to could be a one-year rental. Would another team trade assets for him knowing that?
If the Clippers are dead set on acquiring James Harden and the above package doesn't work for Philly, then another player with value they could look to send is Norman Powell, who won a championship with new Sixers coach Nick Nurse. That should be more of a last resort inclusion, given Powell does a lot of what the Clippers need with his rim pressure and ability to get any shot he wants off the dribble.