HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discuss the latest rumblings surrounding several stars including James Harden, Ben Simmons and Domantas Sabonis. Plus, updates on Robert Covington, Eric Gordon, Dorian-Finney Smith, Jalen Brunson, Justin Holiday, and more on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.
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:40 James Harden
Scotto: In postgame previously, Harden has joked about giving Kyrie Irving the vaccine, and you had to wonder at some point if that privately frustrated Harden because he wanted to come to the Nets for a Big 3, and not a Big 2.5.
The Nets are chasing the championship this season. Unless they know Harden is definitely going to leave in free agency, I don’t see them trading Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons before the trade deadline.
How does Kevin Durant feel about the chatter surrounding Harden and Irving being unable to play in home games? Durant was the only member of the trio to sign an extension with Brooklyn before the season. Now, the potential dynasty that was envisioned could be over as quickly as it started by the end of the season. Time will tell. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played. I think, if the Nets win the championship, none of the reporting that came out today is going to really matter. It’s just crazy how the three stars haven’t even played 20 games together yet.
Gozlan: The easiest way (for Philadelphia to get Harden) is through a regular trade, either now or in the offseason through an opt-in and trade. Daryl Morey is familiar with this when Chris Paul opted in and basically leveraged his way into Houston five years ago. This would be the ideal path for everybody involved. For Philadelphia, they outright trade for him and don’t risk making cap space that could potentially go unused and prevent getting hard-capped in a sign-and-trade. The Nets would have a little more leverage to get Simmons and some other stuff, maybe some picks and some young players like Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle, and Harden doesn’t lose money.
Financially, Harden would lose a decent chunk of money if he were to leave Brooklyn in free agency or a sign-and-trade. If he sticks with the Nets, he can get a maximum of $270 million over the next five years either through an opt-in and extension or re-signing on a five-year max deal. The Sixers, or any other team, can only give Harden a four-year $200 million deal, either through cap space or a sign-and-trade. A trade to Philadelphia while he’s under contract would preserve Harden’s Bird Rights and allow him to re-sign and extend later with Philadelphia to make up for the lost year and money.
I looked into the sign-and-trade possibility. At first, I thought maybe they’d have to get off a really big salary like Tobias Harris to stay under the hard cap, but that’s actually not the case. If they trade Simmons and a small salary filler for Harden in a sign-and-trade at his $46.5 million max starting salary and waive Danny Green’s non-guaranteed contract, they’re right at the hard cap with 12 players. So they’re basically right there and close enough where they can do whatever tinkering or small cost-cutting move is needed to make it all work under the hard cap.
The last pathway is cap space, and this one on the surface feels like the most unlikely and complex. The Sixers would need to offload both Simmons and Harris to generate enough cap space to sign Harden. They need to get to $46.5 million, and I’ve got them at roughly $52 million if they offload Simmons and Tobias, and waive Danny Green’s non-guaranteed deal. The Sixers could go into the offseason with Simmons and Harris still on the roster, but then it’s really unlikely because it’ll be tough to get off $70 million in an offseason with so little cap space available, and it could probably cost several draft picks to get it done.
What I would be on the lookout for is if the Sixers trade Simmons and Harris for expiring contracts now, and maybe they could even get some picks and a cheap young player back as well. A trade like that would likely require three or four teams. I don’t think there’s a single team that could send back $55 million in expiring contracts. That would put the Sixers in a position to outright sign Harden in the offseason, and maybe that could get the Nets interested in talking about a sign-and-trade.
Scotto: I get the sense Harden is focused on trying to compete with Brooklyn right now and trying to make the most of the season. I don’t think he’s angling to go to Philadelphia currently.
Brooklyn is looking at how they can compete now to try and better themselves for the second half of the season. There are a couple of other Nets notes as the deadline looms.
Brooklyn wants an asset of some kind for Paul Millsap, whether it’s another veteran who can help them win now or a future second-round pick, I’m told. The Nets hit on drafting Kessler Edwards in the second round of the draft, and he’s a name to watch for his two-way deal being converted into a standard NBA contract following the trade deadline and buyout market.
Keep an eye on Bruce Brown as a trade chip too. His role and minutes have fluctuated at times with Brooklyn this season. Jevon Carter is also another name to watch. He’s fallen out of Brooklyn’s rotation, and he’s available on the trade market.
The Nets have gotten calls on Joe Harris and Nicolas Claxton, but I don’t expect those guys to be moved, unless they’re packaged for a star or really high-caliber starter.
12:16 Ben Simmons
Scotto: Yossi, you touched earlier on how it could be tough for Philadelphia to combine Harris and Simmons in trade talks.
The 76ers and Hawks briefly kicked around a trade of Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris for John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari, league sources told HoopsHype. However, those talks stalled quickly, with Atlanta uninterested in Harris and unlikely to be able to flip him to a third team.
It’s the worst kept secret in the league is 76ers President Daryl Morey is eying James Harden from afar. When it comes to Atlanta, they’re open to shaking up the roster. The Hawks have been one of the biggest disappointments in the league so far along with the Lakers.
Gozlan: Getting Harris has to be a huge turnoff for the Hawks. Maybe another team can afford to take on both Simmons and Harris, but not the Hawks. It would make the team even more expensive. I’m not sure where Harris fits in a frontcourt that would have Clint Capela, Simmons, and De’Andre Hunter.
15:26 Domantas Sabonis
Scotto: Regarding Domantas Sabonis, one NBA executive told me he doesn’t see the Pacers moving Sabonis unless they get a Nikola Vucevic type of package in return as Orlando did when they traded the All-Star center to Chicago last season.
Gozlan: Last week, I pitched a framework where maybe a team like the Kings can offer a really good player and two first-round picks for him. I don’t think it’s crazy to think maybe the Pacers get offered three first-round picks for him. Washington is another team I can see getting in the mix with their young players and available picks to trade.
Scotto: Indiana also has other rotation guys that are available. Pacers swingmen Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb are also available on the trade market, league sources told HoopsHype. According to rival executives, Indiana is seeking two second-round picks for Holiday. In three seasons with the Pacers, Holiday is shooting just under 39 percent from three-point range.
18:55 Robert Covington
Scotto: Several teams have called to express interest in trading for Robert Covington, including the Utah Jazz, as Marc Stein first reported, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, and others have also reached out, league sources told HoopsHype.
Gozlan: I’m sure there are a lot more teams that are pursuing him. He’ll probably be a domino effect of a Jerami Grant trade and potentially other forwards like Harrison Barnes or Marcus Morris. Any team that is interested in those guys and strike out will probably go after Covington. Utah is a team I can see going after Grant but could probably get Covington for a lot less. Milwaukee is another team I can see trying to get him for the vacated PJ Tucker role.
20:12 Eric Gordon
Scotto: Eric Gordon’s value hasn’t been this high in years after he’s had multiple injury-plagued seasons. The Cavaliers have kept tabs on Gordon, Caris LeVert, Terrence Ross, among shooting guards on the trade market, I’ve heard. The Cavaliers also like Joe Harris from afar, but it would take a star for Harris to be included in any package from Brooklyn’s perspective.
For Houston, Gordon has to be traded now, in my opinion, with his value never higher and his age doesn’t fit Houston’s rebuilding timeline.
Gozlan: I’m skeptical guys like Eric Gordon, Robert Covington, and Terrence Ross can get back first-round picks right now. Teams with extra first-round draft picks, like Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Memphis aren’t teams that are fits for these guys. The Cavaliers are one team I can see trading their first-round pick this season after four straight seasons in the lottery. They have some cornerstones in Evan Mobley, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen.
Scotto: I’ve heard Daniel Theis is a name the Celtics called and did some due diligence on, though I think he’s less likely to end up there following the trade of Juancho Hernangomez because his salary could’ve been used to facilitate a potential trade, and Boston is seeking to remain under the tax.
Robert Williams has drawn interest around the league from teams, but rival executives believe Boston will hold onto Williams and view him as part of the core around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Gozlan: Marcus Smart actually just became trade eligible today.
I’m also keeping an eye on what the Celtics do with Al Horford. It was reported the Celtics made him available, and I think that has a lot to do with their luxury tax crunch for next season. Their roster, as it currently stands with Horford, is projected to be right at next year’s tax. If they can get off Horford and his partial guarantee, it would give them enough flexibility to flesh out the rest of the roster.
Scotto: A lot of executives around the league expect either Dorian Finney-Smith or Jalen Brunson to be possibly on the move by the trade deadline since it’ll be tough for Dallas to keep both players going forward and avoid the luxury tax. Regarding Finney-Smith, several teams, including the Hawks, Trail Blazers, Pacers, Wizards, Pelicans, and others have kept tabs on him, I’m told.
Gozlan: They’re already set to be at the luxury tax heading into next season. As good as they’ve been recently, I don’t see them paying the tax unless they get another star. Re-signing one of these guys would require some reshuffling to stay below the tax next year. I’m sure the Mavericks are gauging what the market will look like for these guys right now. If they feel that they are going to get offers that are way more than they’re willing to spend or could get deals that they think could be negative values, I can see them moving on from them now.
Scotto: I’ve heard Jalen Brunson has some admirers in Detroit. They have cap space and are a team to keep an eye on towards the summer. If Dallas is able to enter the mix for Jerami Grant and acquire him, don’t be surprised if either Brunson or Finney-Smith is involved in a trade package. If Dallas is going to part with either player, they’re going to want an asset that helps them win now.
30:55 Teams looking for centers
Scotto: Some other stuff I’ve heard out there is there are a few teams looking forw centers. The Hornets, Raptors, and the Bulls, who are open to adding a backup center.
You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.