Czerwonka: Analyzing the James Harden trade

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James Harden graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

It finally happened. The trade saga that’s been dragging since the beginning of June has finally concluded. James Harden was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Before we dive into the trade, let’s take a look to see what led to Harden wanting out of his fourth team. 

Before the Trade

Two offseasons ago, James Harden signed a two-year, $68 million contract with a player option for the second year. Harden essentially took a pay cut to help the Sixers sign more players such as P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.

After the devastating loss of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was retooling time for the Philadelphia 76ers. Although he could’ve opted out, Harden picked up his contract to protect his salary of $35.6 million. 

Harden made it clear that he wanted to be traded. His preferred destination was the Clippers and for a majority of the summer, the two teams had periodic conversations. 

However, that would pause, as on Aug. 12, the Sixers told Harden that the trade talks stopped, and they wanted to bring him back for the season. 

Then, on Oct. 2, the Sixers reported to training camp, and Harden didn’t show up. He missed one week for “personal reasons.” 

The final wrinkle was when Harden tried to board the 76ers’ plane for the season opener in Milwaukee, but the team denied him access. Harden would watch the home opener at the Wells Fargo Center, one of the last times he entered that building as a 76er.

The Trade

The official trade is listed:

The Philadelphia 76ers get Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, K.J. Martin Jr., multiple draft picks and a pick swap.

The Los Angeles Clippers get James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Filip Petrusev.

The Oklahoma City Thunder get 2027 first-round pick swap from the Clippers.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers’ side of the trade is mostly positive.

To start with the positives, as I mentioned earlier, the Harden saga has finally concluded. This means that the ball will be in Tyrese Maxey’s hand more than ever now that he’s going to be the point guard. Which so far, has been fantastic for the 23-year-old guard, as he’s averaging over 26.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 6.6 assists after the first week of games. 

The Sixers now have extra depth with veteran guys like Batum and RoCo (Covington). Also the sneakily good K.J. Martin, a young, explosive dunker with great athleticism. 

The only negative is that this trade still doesn’t put them ahead of the top two teams in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics.  

Los Angeles Clippers

We’re now in year five of the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George experience, and all they have to show is one Conference Finals appearance. Again, to start off with the positives, with Harden’s playmaking, the Clippers become a real threat in the West. Also, we all know Leonard and George’s injury history, Harden can continue to produce and keep the team afloat when those guys are out. 

But, as we all know, this isn’t 2015 anymore. This core is aging, and fast. With Harden at 34, PG at 33, Kawhi at 32, and Westbrook at 34, the time to win is now for the Clippers. Where does the franchise even go from here? Harden’s contract is up after the season, and the other big three along with Tucker all have player options after the 2024-25 season as well, so if they wanted, they could just leave. 

Overall, we will have to just wait and see how this trade plays out. This could honestly go wrong for both teams, with rumors swirling around Embiid and the Knicks, or the Clippers’ aging core that could fizzle out in just 2-3 years. 

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