Breaking Down the James Harden Trade

Oct 31, 2023

James Harden, James Harden trade, James Harden trade news

The NBA’s extended nightmare has come to an end. James Harden has finally arrived in Los Angeles and is no longer with the Philadelphia 76ers. After months of posturing and animosity, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Sixers reached a deal late on Monday night that sends former league MVP James Harden to his desired location in Los Angeles.

According to the trade details, Harden, PJ Tucker, and rookie Filip Petrusev are headed to Los Angeles in exchange for the following:

  • Robert Covington
  • Nic Batum
  • Marcus Morris
  • KJ Martin
  • An unprotected first-round pick in 2028
  • Two second-round picks
  • A 2029 pick swap and
  • Another 2026 first-round pick (courtesy of the Clippers via the Thunder).

Along with his current (and previous) teammates Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Harden joins Russell Westbrook, his former teammate on two different teams. Both George and Leonard reportedly pushed the Clippers to make this deal happen. Was it worth it?

What Happens to the Sixers Next?

What happens to Joel Embiid now is the biggest question front offices will be asking today. This summer, Embiid hinted that he might be willing to move away from Philadelphia in order to complete his NBA championship dream. It’s believed that several franchises are watching closely in case Embiid chooses to pursue a trade request. According to league sources, the Miami Heat and New York Knicks would compete to be first in line for Embiid.

That’s why the Harden trade is so intriguing.

With a healthy Embiid and a rapidly developing Tyrese Maxey, Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey has brought in veterans who can help the team contend for a spot in the conference finals. Marcus Morris and Robert Covington replace PJ Tucker’s defensive adaptability and spot-up three-point shooting. Batum adds adaptability by playing several forward positions.

Additionally, the Sixers increased draft capital will allow Morey to use it to pursue future star trades. Although he didn’t acquire a star player in the Harden trade, he was able to acquire enough assets from the Clippers to use in the future.

Who Would Philly Pursue?

With two additional first-round picks, the Sixers can go after a high-level guard to fit into the lineup alongside Embiid and Maxey. Who is that guard? It’s possible that Chicago’s Zach Lavine is one possible option. Another is Toronto’s Pascal Siakam.

It’s no secret that the Bulls have been shopping LaVine for a while now, but they haven’t been tempted to pull the trigger. Seemingly trapped in a no-man’s land with Toronto, Siakam wants to continue on a new extension with a team that doesn’t seem to be as excited about a long-term partnership. Either player could help Philadelphia get to the conference finals if Embiid can stay healthy for once.

Interestingly, the four contracts that the Sixers acquired through trade—Martin, Covington, Morris, and Batum—all have expiration dates. Therefore, the Sixers would be an easy partner for any team looking to clear their cap sheet and trade for a star during a rebuild.

Are the Clippers Better Off?

Other than Westbrook, the only play-making guard on the Clippers roster is Bones Hyland, a career 11-points-a-game scorer. Harden adds another strong playmaker who doesn’t have to score as much with Westbrook, George, and Leonard on the floor. But, is LA really better off?

Consider that this makes Harden’s fourth team in the last three years. He initially wanted to be in Houston, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia but left all three on bad terms. Is LA next? Harden is a free agent at the end of this season. What would stop him from leaving after this season?

The Clippers are also notorious for flaming out late in the postseason. The franchise has played in one Western Conference final (2021) and has never made the NBA Finals. Harden has played 14 seasons in the NBA. He has been to exactly one NBA Finals. His Oklahoma City Thunder got dumped by the Miami Heat in just five games. Is he really the answer for the Clippers? Time will tell.

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