James Harden has taken a bazooka to his relationship with Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey this summer.
After extension talks between the two fizzled in July, Harden opted into the final year of his deal and demanded he be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. With no trade on the horizon, Harden called Daryl Morey a liar at an event in China and then hosted a party where signs reading, “Daryl Morey is a liar,” were prominently displayed.
Harden seems intent on finding his way out of Philadelphia via trade and doesn’t appear afraid to make the situation as “uncomfortable” as possible.
For as much as Harden’s public image has been damaged over the past few months, he remains an elite basketball player. He led the league in assists per game (10.7), was second in points generated from assists per game (24.6) and finished 18th in Box Plus-Minus (5.4), right behind Jayson Tatum. Harden is still a top-20 player, one of the league’s foremost playmakers and one of the best isolation scorers on the planet.
In the year 2023, James Harden makes any team better. That is why the Philadelphia 76ers want him back and why if they were to trade him, they’d want real quality in return. Unfortunately, two factors are working against them securing a palatable trade.
The first is Harden’s antics. The second is he is in the final year of his contract. While the Sixers will undoubtedly look to make a good trade, with Harden and his contract status working against them, any trade could go from good to bad to ugly.
The Good James Harden trade: 76ers, Clippers, Raptors, and Pascal Siakam
James Harden wants to be a Clipper. The Clippers need a point guard. And the Raptors still haven’t re-signed Pascal Siakam. Let’s fire up the NBA trade machine to save the day.
In this trade, Harden heads to the Clippers, Siakam and Bones Hyland go to the Sixers, and the Toronto Raptors take on two expiring contracts (Marcus Morris Sr. and Robert Covington), two young players (Amir Coffey and Kobe Brown), and net one unprotected 2030 first-round pick apiece from the Sixers and the Clippers.
The Clippers secure Harden for two veterans who fell out of the playoff rotation last season, three young players who project to play very little this season, and one far-out draft pick that could come back to haunt them. Remember, Harden was a top-20 player last season, and the Clippers get to add his services to support Kawhi Leonard and Paul George without touching the top seven of their rotation. If that costs three young players and an unprotected pick, it’s well worth it.
James Harden dramatically improves the Clippers’ title odds. The Clippers championship window is closing, but it is not shut. The right to draft someone currently in middle school shouldn’t stop them from taking their last best shot with this core.
For the Sixers, this trade makes all the sense in the world. Pascal Siakam is an All-Star caliber player who flirts with All-NBA teams. He’s 29 years old, the same age as Joel Embiid, is a native of Cameroon, just like Embiid, and has a successful history with the Sixers' new coach Nick Nurse. Just like Harden, he’s in the final year of his deal, and on paper, he makes far more sense to extend than Harden because of his age and general avoidance of drama.
Bones Hyland is a nice little throw-in to add some bench-scoring. The Sixers won’t become title contenders by flipping Harden for Siakam, but it gives them a fighting chance and a core to build around for another three seasons if they can extend Siakam. Giving up an unprotected 2030 first-round pick is risky, but so is standing pat and seeing if Joel Embiid loves being the best player to have never reached a conference finals.
The Toronto Raptors need to pick a direction, and moving Pascal Siakam, absorbing some bad salaries, and landing two premium draft picks do just that. The Raptors were mediocre last season and lost their starting point guard in free agency for nothing. Pascal Siakam is a great player, but risking losing him in free agency to chase the play-in is malpractice, and signing him to a massive extension is equally unwise with their current roster.
The Raptors need to rebuild, and letting Siakam go is the obvious first step. While shipping out a franchise icon will sting, two unprotected 2030 first-round picks from veteran teams is an incredible haul.