If the Philadelphia 76ers don’t make another move in free agency – minus extending James Harden, of course – it’s hard to call the offseason anything but a resounding success.
With only one draft pick, the full mid-level exception, and a bi-annual exception at their disposal, Daryl Morey was able to add three high-end, two-way 3-and-D performers, two young, high-upside wings in Julian Champagnie and Trevelin Queen, and a G-League big in Michael Foster Jr. who could be a player too.
And yet, one thing that didn’t happen, at least not yet, is a post-draft trade.
Now normally, that shouldn’t be too surprising; there aren’t that many trades that take place in late June/early July, and it’s entirely possible the Sixers may not make another big move until the middle of the season. But when you consider just how many folks across pretty much every mainstream media outlet have mentioned the prospects of a Sixers trade involving either Matisse Thybulle or Tobias Harris – here’s just one example with Brian Windhorst on ESPN’s First Take – the smoke might just have a fire hiding inside.
But who could it be? Is a package of Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, and Matisse Thybulle plus a 2029 first round pick viable for Kevin Durant? Or what about a deal to Dallas, who are reportedly big fans of Thybulle according to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer?
Let’s talk about the Atlanta Hawks.
The Philadelphia 76ers should sell the Atlanta Hawks on Tobias Harris.
Here are the basic facts you need to know about the Atlanta Hawks: They remain interested in trading away John Collins, just traded away three first round picks plus Danilo Gallinari to the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray, and will eventually need to clean up their cap books to give him a max contract in 2024, when his current deal expires.
So, with that all in mind, why would the Hawks have any interest in acquiring Tobias Harris, a player they weren’t into back in February?
Well, it feels sort of simple if you ask me: Atlanta gave up a ton of assets to acquire Murray, who is more of an on-ball driver than an elite off-ball floor spacer, and will have to pay him a ton in the not-too-distant future. While they may not be particularly jazzed on the idea of paying Harris $72 million over the next two years – even if his fit at the four in ATL is better than it would be in Philly – his contract would come off the books right when Murray’s new money would go on it, which isn’t the case with Collins.
Furthermore, acquiring Harris in exchange for Collins wouldn’t be a one-for-one swap and may be intriguing for the Hawks in more ways than one. You see, doing a Harris for Collins swap isn’t a legal trade financially, but add Matisse Thybulle and Bogdan Bogdanovic to that equation – plus a 2029 first round pick – and that deal is totally acceptable under the current CBA. While Bogdanovic is a solid performer, he’s coming off of an offseason surgery on a troublesome knee and may rapidly become a negative asset if his game doesn’t rebound fast enough.
Alternatively, maybe the Hawks really don’t want to have big-money role players on long-term deals and would rather get off of Kevin Huerter‘s four-year, $65 million contract instead of Bogdanovic’s two-year deal. After a pair of promising seasons from 2019-21, Huerter really didn’t take the step forward during his fourth professional season that many expected, and that is a big reason why the Hawks traded for Murray instead of DeAndre Ayton, who they were also linked to during the offseason.
Though a two-for-two swap of Harris and Thybulle for Huerter and Bogdanovic is the only pairing of the three players that doesn’t technically work financially, all it would take to be cap compliant would be to add another $1.2 million from the Hawks, which isn’t the hardest ask imaginable.
Either way, if long-term contention is the goal, getting off of contracts like Collins and Huerter, who are signed through 2026, could prove to be a short-term bummer that facilitates an extended period of success.
The Philadelphia 76ers are loading up on power forwards like it’s 2019 all over again. While they could deploy Danuel House and P.J. Tucker predominantly at the small forward spot, their additions, when coupled with the pre-existing presence of Georges Niang, feels rather peculiar with a 34.8 minutes per game forward already in place. If a deal can come together that parses out Tobias Harris’ money for more appropriate role players, be they on short, intermediate, or even long-term contracts, that feels like the right play, especially if it helps a team like the Atlanta Hawks in the process too.