James Harden finally got his trade demand to the Los Angeles Clippers, and the NBA season is rolling. Let’s evaluate this trade for the Clippers and 76ers, and see who really won here.
Breaking Down The Harden Trade
After a several month long saga of a trade request, James Harden finally got his wish on Tuesday, being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, KJ Martin, an unprotected 2028 pick, a pick swap in 2027, and two second round picks. P.J Tucker was also traded from Philadelphia.
That is a long list of assets, but the long story short is that Harden was moved for role-players on expiring contracts and two first round picks. Notably, the Clippers were able to keep Terrance Mann from being included in the deal, which was noted as a point of contention earlier in negotiations.
The Clippers acquire Harden to pair with aging stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as well as Harden’s former two time teammate Russell Westbrook. The 76ers get draft capital, a few guys that might help them for this year, and the Harden headache off their hands.
From the Clippers side, this deal is a last ditch effort to preserve any chance they have of contending in the Leonard and George era. Since the two signed in 2019, their tenure has been riddled by underperformance in the 2020 bubble followed by a constant slew of injuries that has prevented them from having any playoff success.
They did make the 2021 conference finals and take it to 6 games without Leonard, showing us this team does have the pieces to contend if healthy. However, the next two years having George and Leonard miss playoff games with injury shows us that is an unlikely ask. They mitigate this by adding Harden, who can facilitate for their star wings and shooters while playing a ton of games. Harden has been injured more as he has aged, but still has the reputation of a guy who can stay healthy.
This gives them star power, and they now have a trio that could potentially rival the top of the Western conference. However, all of these guys are in their thirties and could be free agents at the end of this season. That has massive blowup potential, as they now don’t control their picks for a while. The Clippers need to win something serious this season to justify this move.
On the 76ers side, it was a mediocre return for a player they expected to carry them into contention alongside Joel Embiid. However, it was a decent return for a player who publicly stated that he didn’t want anything to do with Daryl Morey, and was seemingly nowhere close to suiting up for games. Batum, Morris, and Covington are all decent wings that could help Philadelphia this season, but not significantly besides a bench contribution.
They now need Tyrese Maxey to continue the leap he has taken so far this year, and plan for the future of their franchise.
The picks they acquired do have value in the sense that they could be used as ammo in a trade for another star, as they control most of their picks moving forward. No one high end is available right now, but Zach LaVine and O.G Anunoby have been listed as names to watch out for by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix.
LaVine would give them a scoring guard to replace Harden, while Anunoby gives them a valuable 3 and D wing. Either way, this team is a big step behind Milwaukee and Boston and need to act fast to keep Joel Embiid happy.
Ultimately, these teams both took a good direction for their franchises with big question marks attached. The Clippers added a star and lead guard that they needed, who is also a player with question marks in terms of chemistry and ability to play within a team. The 76ers added draft picks, but they need to make sure they use them to keep up a competitive roster.
I think the winner will depend on whether the Clippers go to the conference finals or further this season, and whether the 76ers end up making another trade. Ultimately though, the Clippers got the star and that in this case makes them the temporary winner.