76ers trade James Harden to the Clippers

76ers trade James Harden to the Clippers

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report early this morning (or late last night on the West coast) that Philadelphia had agreed to a trade with the Clippers, sending James Harden to Los Angeles.

In addition to Harden, the 76ers shipped P.J. Tucker and Filip Petrusev to the Clippers in exchange for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, KJ Martin, Nic Batum, an unprotected 2028 first-round pick, a pair of second-round selections, a 2029 pick swap and an additional first-round choice that will be routed from a third team.

The details of the first-round pick from a third team were still being finalized this morning.

Although Philadelphia GM Daryl Morey was unable to get an All-Star type of player in return, that possibility still exists before the trade deadline. Covington, Morris and Batum are all in the final years of their contracts ($17.1 million for Morris and $11.7 million for Batum), so they can be moved after a 60-day window that ends before the deadline.

With those three salaries and the $5.4 million for Furkan Korkmaz, the 76ers have $45 million of expiring salaries that can be used in a deal.

Even better, Philadelphia is done with the relentless headaches that Harden, a mercurial 10-time All-Star who is a high-volume shooter on the back nine of his up-and-down career, brings to every team.

Now he’s the Clippers’ problem. Harden reunites with Russell Westbrook, who played with him in Oklahoma City during the early years of their respective careers.

Will this work? I have my doubts. Harden is a primary ball handler who will now share the court with Westbrook, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

In the Clippers’ first three games, George is averaging 27.3 points, 4.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Leonard is averaging 23.0 points, 5.7 rebounds. 5.0 assists and 1.7 SPG, while Westbrook is averaging 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.7 APG.

Harden hasn’t played yet this season. The 34-year-old Harden opted into his $35.6 million player option for this year back in June, but he requested a trade later that month.

The under-the-radar factor in this trade is the acquisition of Tucker, who is an elite defender with an NBA championship ring on his resume. When the Clippers want to play small ball with a five-out lineup, Tucker can serve as the undersized center who isn’t afraid to mix it up with anybody in the paint.

There’s also the load-management thing with George and Leonard. They’re in street clothes for lots of regular-season games, especially in back-to-back situations. When they’re sitting out, Harden and Westbrook will happily take more shots and get their numbers.

In 58 regular-season games for the 76ers last season, Harden averaged 21.0 points, an NBA-best 10.7 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 SPG. In 11 postseason contests before Philadelphia was eliminated by Boston in the East semifinals, Harden averaged 20.3 points, 8.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 SPG.