With news that James Harden is interested in a Clippers trade, inevitably people go to the top of the list and look at Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. There was even some scuttlebutt on sports talk radio about pursuing one of these guys before Harden opted in for trade purposes.

We must not talk ourselves into this because:

  1. George hasn’t played more than 60 games since 2019. He has a significant injury history and missed the playoffs this season.
  2. After winning it all with Toronto in 2019, Kawhi has been held to less than 60 games per season and missed the entirety of the 2021-2022 season with an ACL tear. He’s only played 13 playoff games over the past three seasons.
  3. Both of these guys are on the wrong side of 30 and make Joel Embiid look like John Stockton in the availability and durability department (Stockton played 82 games 16 times in his career).
  4. George has a reputation for coming up small in big games. “Playoff P.” He’s logged some amazing postseason performances and some total clunkers as well (2020 bubble is a recent example). He’s just as much of a playoff wild card as Harden was in terms of an incredibly high ceiling but sometimes an alarmingly low floor.

This is probably moot point anyway since there are reports that Leonard and George are on board with playing alongside Harden. They both make $45 million, so about $10 million more than Harden’s $35.6 million player option. You can’t do a 1-for-1 swap with either of those guys straight up, so other players or teams have to be involved.

Los Angeles does have some decent pieces below the PG and Kawhi level. Norman Powell is a $20 million dollar guy who played for Nick Nurse and averaged 17 points off the bench on 39.7% three point shooting this past season. Terance Mann is a versatile wing with upside and still in his mid-20s. Bones Hyland is a local Delaware kid still on his rookie deal who could be a future piece. You might even think about moving Harden and/or someone like Jaden Springer for multiple mid-level guys and rolling with more depth instead. Make Embiid, Maxey, and Harris your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd scoring options, then you put on the floor a deeper and more athletic group of players. It could work. You have to ask yourself if the Sixers need to return a superstar for James Harden, or whether that’s even possible (think Lillard in a multi-team deal).

The good thing about Harden looking for a trade is that it opens up a new avenue. Plenty of things to talk about now. Much more interesting than scouring a weak free agent market. We can get creative with trade ideas and the Sixers can go in a variety of directions here.