Seemingly ever since Tobias Harris signed his five-year, $180 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2019, at least some contingent of the fan base has been speculating on ways to move him via trade. This line of thinking is certainly understandable, as paying near-superstar level money for a good, not great player is far from an efficient way to construct a roster in the modern salary cap environment.
To be fair to Tobias, he made a concerted effort to adapt his game last season following the arrival of James Harden. Harris became a much more willing catch-and-shoot perimeter threat and put forth a greater effort on the defensive end. He was arguably the team’s best and most consistent player throughout the opening-round series win against Toronto. With just two years remaining on Harris’ contract, the money looks less onerous by the day, and there’s certainly no reason the team has to trade him.
Still, there are those among the fan base ready to move on, and you can reasonably argue that some sort of talent-for-depth swap where Tobias’ money becomes earmarked for multiple slightly-less-talented players would make the team better as a whole. It’s hard to salary match in a trade, though, when you’re talking about a player who made $36 million this past season. However, one destination that always loomed as a workaround was Oklahoma City, who had the available cap space to make a Harris trade work fairly easily. Bryan Toporek succinctly laid out the situation for Forbes earlier this month:
“If the Sixers hope to clear enough cap space to sign a star in free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be their best bet for a Harris dumping ground.
The Thunder currently have nearly $22 million in cap space available until June 30, but it will disappear July 1 when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s max extension officially kicks in. Since the Thunder are so far under the cap for now, they wouldn’t have to send a roughly equivalent amount of salary back to the Sixers in a Harris deal. They’d just have to finish no more than $100,000 over the cap following the trade.
The Thunder could create an additional $9.7 million in cap space by relinquishing all of their cap holds for former players such as Norris Cole, Nick Collison and Raymond Felton. If they did so, they could absorb Harris’ contract and would only need to send back veteran big man Derrick Favors ($9.7 million). The Sixers could also include Matisse Thybulle ($2.8 million) and/or the No. 23 overall pick this year as sweeteners.
The Sixers should only go this route if they’re certain that they’ll be able to spend their cap space wisely. Favors wouldn’t do much (if anything) for their playoff outlook next season, and they’d be left scrambling to replace both of their starting wings/forwards.”
The two teams reportedly discussed a potential Harris deal back in February, so there was some real smoke to the situation.
Yet, we can probably throw all that thinking out the window after today’s reported trade involving Oklahoma City and Denver.
Green is expected to exercise his $8.2M contract for 2022-2023. Deal gives Nuggets flexibility to use a $6.4M tax mid-level exception or an $8.2M trade exception in offseason. Nuggets expect to be a tax-paying team. Thunder have $31M in cap space to absorb Green salary.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 13, 2022
With Oklahoma City’s cap space significantly reduced by JaMychal Green’s arrival, we can probably put any Harris trade speculation on pause, at least until the new league begins on July 1 and some cap space opens up for a handful of other teams. With Tobias now even likelier to remain on the team for the upcoming 2022-23 season, his mandate is clear: go recruit Bo Cruz before Boston can snatch him up.