June 20, 2023
Tobias Harris is Philadelphia's most obvious trade candidate. Tobias Harris being traded has sounded unlikely this week. Somehow, both of these things have been true as the Sixers try to figure out a path forward for next season that improves their title chances.
Here at PhillyVoice, we reported on Tuesday that a Harris deal didn't seem likely this week based on what is currently out there. It's a stance that Yahoo's Jake Fischer echoed during a radio appearance on Wednesday evening.
“I don’t think anything is moving right now on a Tobias Harris trade. Right now he’s not a major player on the board around the NBA," Fischer said on 97.5 The Fanatic. "Things can change but there’s nothing really to keep an eye on at this moment.”
The noise, if there is any, is coming from outside of the house. In Tuesday morning's updated version of his mock draft, ESPN's Jonathan Givony noted the Indiana Pacers as a potential suitor for a Harris or another 3/4 hybrid type. The Pacers have been exploring a consolidation trade for a while now — they tried to trade multiple picks at the deadline for help around Tyrese Haliburton, and it stands to reason they might still be interested in doing so now.
Keith Pompey further piggybacked off this line of thought on Wednesday night, playing both sides of the Harris slop war:
The Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Indiana Pacers have made inquiries about Harris’ availability, according to a source. Looking to add a veteran player, the Pacers are showing the most interest in the 10-year veteran. However, another source said the Sixers will only make a deal that would be hard to pass up. As a result, teams around the league believe the Sixers are overvaluing Harris and asking for “outrageous packages in return,” sources say. [Inquirer]An important note here — this is an almost identical framing to the one we saw when the Sixers were shopping Ben Simmons in the summer of 2021. "One league executive said the Sixers are making 'totally outlandish offers,'" was how Pompey characterized Philadelphia's stance at the time. And eventually, those supposedly outlandish offers ended with Philadelphia acquiring James Harden. The Sixers setting a high bar on trade prices has not been prohibitive in the past, obviously.
The better question here is whether any of these teams, starting with the Pacers, have a package that makes sense for a Harris trade. Philadelphia's position, sources have said, is that they want to either improve their flexibility or top-end ceiling if they were to trade Harris. You could make the argument they'll do neither by exchanging players with any of these teams.
Let's start with the Pacers. Sharpshooter Buddy Hield would bring real offensive juice to Philadelphia as a high-volume, quick-trigger shooter who can punish you as a stationary target or an off-movement player. His contract is also no longer problematic, with Hield's deal expiring next summer after declining each year since he signed a $94 million pact with the Sacramento Kings. But there are real fit concerns in Philly — Hield is an abhorrent defender that would join a James Harden/Tyrese Maxey backcourt already bursting with defensive leaks, putting even more stress on Joel Embiid to solve all problems on that end of the floor. You're also losing on-ball utility by swapping Harris for Hield, who doesn't offer much of a threat as a self-creator or a helper of others.
Trying to find a workable trade with the Detroit Pistons, who committed numerous crimes against basketball last season, is an even more difficult proposition. Is swapping Harris for a package centered around Bojan Bogdanovic even a neutral move for Philadelphia, let alone a positive one? Bogdanovic will be 35 by the time the playoffs start next spring, and while he's a floor-spacing upgrade over Harris and liable to get a change-of-scenery bump, it's not clear how much he has left in the tank after showing vulnerability toward the end of his days in Utah.
The Cavs might be the hardest team of all to turn into a Harris trade destination, given that none of their big-money guys (Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen) are getting traded for Harris, and in Allen's case wouldn't benefit the Sixers. Trading Harris in a sign-and-trade for Caris LeVert doesn't really accomplish anything and isn't Daryl Morey's brand of trade/player. And that's the thing with all of these teams — looking through the rosters and contracts, all of these deals scream, "And what else would the Sixers be getting?" because there isn't a good headliner you can envision them getting in return.
It's sort of the problem with outright demanding for someone to be traded, even a player who has been crushed for his bad contract like Harris has. While I can appreciate the "Just change something!" mentality from a fanbase who watched this team slam into the same second-round wall over and over again, you have to actually consider who is on the other side of the trade before making a deal. There aren't tons of diamonds in the rough floating around the Central Division, so it makes sense that Philly isn't jumping feet-first into a Harris trade with one of these franchises.
If anything, what I think people should recall while waiting for Morey to do something is that most of his big moves in Philadelphia have been kept under wraps until they were essentially complete. The Harden-to-Philly move came out piece-by-piece, with Brian Windhorst essentially on an island during that process, and multiple big-time insiders were unconvinced that deal was happening until it finally went through. Other major trades — Al Horford to OKC, the Seth Curry deal, the De'Anthony Melton swap — flashed through the sky light a bolt of lightning with little lead-in beforehand. The Sixers aren't putting on an urgent front, which may end up being to their benefit in negotiations.
Thursday night is expected to be a wild night in the NBA. That doesn't mean it will be a wild night for Philly, but stay prepared and pour yourself a big, cold drink just in case.
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