In a significant move, James Harden has secured his transfer to the Los Angeles Clippers, as confirmed by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in the early hours of the morning. The trade agreement hinges on expiring contracts and a selection of draft picks. Shams Charania of The Athletic also noted the inclusion of the Thunder’s draft pick in the deal.
For the three teams involved, here’s a comprehensive look at how they fared:
Philadelphia 76ers Grade: B+
The Sixers faced a challenging situation with Harden, as his market value had considerably diminished. The Clippers emerged as the primary suitor, and though the Sixers missed out on their initial target, Terance Mann, this trade benefits them in multiple ways.
Foremost, this move represents an addition by subtraction. The Sixers have mitigated the risk of potential distractions that often accompany prolonged trade demands. Meanwhile, Tyrese Maxey has thrived in Harden’s absence, delivering impressive statistics in the first three games.
Furthermore, the trade brings valuable role players to the Sixers’ roster. Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris, and Robert Covington offer seasoned experience, three-point shooting, and crucial depth. Of these, Covington, who has been acquired by Morey for the third time in his career, stands out as a significant asset.
A notable addition is Kenyon Martin Jr., an intriguing prospect. As a restricted free agent next summer, he displayed promise as an athletic wing with potential for two-way contributions. Despite a modest shooting percentage, his defensive capabilities and finishing ability are assets to the team.
The acquisition of valuable draft capital, particularly the 2026 and 2028 Clippers’ picks, presents a promising outlook for the future. Given the age of their star players, these picks hold substantial potential value. The included pick swap is another valuable asset for the Sixers.
While parting ways with a top-30 player is significant, the assets gained, coupled with potential cap space in the future, position the Sixers for future moves. This trade appears to be a continuation of a larger strategy rather than a standalone transaction.
Los Angeles Clippers Grade: C+
Harden’s integration into the Clippers’ roster presents an intriguing dynamic. The acquisition raises questions about Russell Westbrook’s role, considering both players’ reliance on ball possession. The fit might necessitate a shift for Westbrook to a bench role to maintain his prominence as a lead ball handler.
However, there is potential for Harden’s facilitation skills to positively impact the team’s offensive dynamics. His elite passing ability, evidenced by leading the league in assists last season, offers a new dimension to the Clippers’ playstyle. The team had relied heavily on isolations from Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, which, while effective individually, fell short of maximizing their collective potential.
Harden’s willingness to adapt and defer to superior players, demonstrated alongside Joel Embiid in Philadelphia, bodes well for team chemistry. With improved shooting options surrounding him, Harden’s playmaking prowess is poised to be even more potent.
The addition of P.J. Tucker, while in a declining phase, brings defensive value and offensive contributions. His proficiency in offensive rebounding and three-point shooting, albeit underutilized at times, complements the team’s needs.
This trade introduces an element of risk, with potential clashes of egos for shot opportunities. The long-term costs of potential underperformance in the 2027 to 2029 seasons could be substantial. Nevertheless, this move enhances the Clippers’ championship prospects compared to their previous position.
Oklahoma City Thunder Grade: A-
The Thunder’s strategy hinges on the belief that the Clippers may find themselves in the draft lottery in 2026 and 2027. Given the potential roster turnover and aging stars, this is a plausible scenario. By protecting the 2026 Clippers pick, the Thunder retain the option to utilize it even if it’s a high selection.
Moreover, the pick swap in 2027 holds promise for the Thunder, as they anticipate an upswing while the Clippers potentially face a decline. This could result in another high-value pick for the Thunder.
Although the outcomes of this trade may take time to materialize, it offers the Thunder the potential for two high draft picks. This calculated move positions them strategically for the future.