September 25, 2022

Apparently, ever since Tobias Harris signed his five-year, $180 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019, at least part of the fan base has been speculating about ways to move him on via trade. This line of thinking is certainly understandable, as paying superstar-level money for a good player, not a great one, is far from an efficient way to build 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 to catch and shoot perimeter threat and put in a greater effort on the defensive end. He was arguably the team’s best and most consistent player throughout the opening series win over Toronto. With only two years left on Harris’ contract, the money seems less expensive by the day, and there’s certainly no reason for the team to must change him.

Still, there are those among the fanbase willing to move on, and you can reasonably argue that some sort of talent-for-depth swap where Tobias’ money becomes earmarked for several slightly less talented players would make the better team as a whole. It’s hard to match the salary in a trade, though, when you’re talking about a player who made $36 million last season. However, one destination that always presented itself as a workaround was Oklahoma City, which had the cap space available to run a Harris interchange quite easily. Bryan Toporek succinctly laid out the situation for Forbes earlier this month:

“If the Sixers are hoping to clear enough space to sign a star in free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be their best bet for a Harris dump.

The Thunder currently have nearly $22 million in cap space available through June 30, but that will go away on July 1 when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s maximum extension officially goes into effect. Since the Thunder are so far under the cap right now, they wouldn’t have to send a roughly equivalent salary to the Sixers in a deal with Harris. They would only have to end no more than $100,000 above the cap after the trade.

The Thunder could create an additional $9.7 million in cap space by waiving all of their caps for former players such as Norris Cole, Nick Collison and Raymond Felton. If they did, they could absorb Harris’ contract and just have to fire 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 are confident they can spend their cap space wisely. The favors wouldn’t do much (if anything) for their playoff prospects next season, and they’d be scrambling to replace their two starting wings/forward.

The two teams reportedly discussed a potential deal with Harris in February, so there was real smoke in the situation.

Still, we can probably throw all those thoughts out the window after the trade announced today involving Oklahoma City and Denver.

With Oklahoma City’s cap space significantly reduced by the arrival of JaMychal Green, we can probably put all Harris trade speculation on hold, at least until the new league begins July 1 and a space ceiling opens for a handful of other teams. With Tobias now even more likely to stay on the team for the upcoming 2022-23 season, his mandate is clear: go sign Bo Cruz before Boston can get him.