With De’Anthony Melton in town via a welcome trade on draft night, the Sixers’ offseason kicked into high gear. But many people are wondering if Melton’s arrival ended Philadelphia’s search for Miami Heat forward PJ Tucker, with whom the Sixers have been connected by multiple reports.
Keith Pompey reported last week that “Multiple sources have the Sixers intending to offer [Tucker] a three-year, $30 million contract. Time will tell what will happen. But a source added that there is mutual interest between Tucker, 37, and the Sixers.”
Looking at an updated cap sheet, according to Spotrac, the Sixers have 13 players under contract. If James Harden opts in sometime before Wednesday night (the deadline for him to pick up his $47.4 million player option), they’ll be around $151.7 million in total salary for the upcoming season committed to 13 players. . There is not much room for manoeuvre.
The latest NBA free agency rumors dominate my latest column This Week in Baseball just sent around the world right now… with lots of Rockets, Knicks, Mavericks, Sixers, Blazers and more: https://t. co/xV1ckj4R8c
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 26, 2022
But according to a recent update from Marc Stein via substack, the Sixers aren’t out of the race to acquire tranche four just yet:
“Numerous rival teams, meanwhile, say with even more conviction now than they did last week, when I first reported it on Wednesday, that they expect PJ Tucker to land in Philly on a three-year, $30 million contract in free agency. . If Pat Riley’s Heat can find a way to re-sign Tucker, it will definitely surprise some people. Seems more and more certain, then, to at least score a Harden/Tucker meeting in a Sixers offseason…”
So if we’re targeting Harden for his option, as B/R’s Jake Fischer (and now many others, including Stein in that same report) have hinted we should, there are still some hurdles.
If the Sixers were to find a new home without recouping salary in exchange for a pair of Furkan Korkmaz ($5M) and Matisse Thybulle ($4.39M), they could potentially thread a very thin needle.
They would have to stay under the luxury tax apron, projected to fetch about $155.7 million to open up a mid-tier non-taxpayer exception to make this possible offer to Tucker. The NTMLE reckons it will be around $10.3 million by 2023, just about the same as the $30 million over three years we’ve been hearing about. Tucker, 37, would be 40 when that scenario came to an end. Shams Charania first reported that Tucker plans to hit unrestricted free agency.
If the Sixers can keep costs down, they can also pull off a $4 million biannual exception. However, if they can’t stay under the apron, they’d have to work with a smaller $6.3 million projected contributor MLE, and perhaps a ~$2.5 million veteran floor salaryman.
But as Daryl Morey said about the pick trade, no. 23 “We are trying to win now. We are looking for players who can contribute.” Then, at another point in his media availability, he said “we might need another wing.” Both comments do little to dispel the idea that they would be intrigued to add Tucker despite his age, if the price was right.
Our Paul Hudrick has reported that the Sixers won’t just get rid of good players. Going past Korkmaz and Thybulle to make room would seem to be just that.
—Tom Moore (@TomMoorePhilly) June 24, 2022
Fischer noted that Philadelphia values Thybulle as the two-time All-Defensive Second Team member that he is. and Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice he has also noted that the team still values Matisse, despite his playoff struggles.
One can tie one’s mind in a knot trying to figure out if the team would be better off with Tucker, and maybe several minutes of vets. salaries, while dealing with a feared hard stop facing scenarios that hold Thybulle, Korkmaz, a vet min. salary, a $6 million MLE, and perhaps a bit of flexibility with no caps during the season.
But maybe they could get a future asset in return that won’t hit them on the 2023 salary cap? We heard rumors of NBA interest in Thybulle on draft night.
the #sixers they are trying to acquire Eric Gordon and using Matisse Thybulle as an asset, even trying to get a third team involved, according to multiple league sources. The Portland Trail Blazers are willing to make a straight deal for Thybulle, sources say.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) June 23, 2022
If Harden doesn’t opt out, and they don’t want to just give away Thybulle and Korkmaz, the team could explore bigger trades involving Tobias Harris ($38 million), who has also reportedly been bought.
There are other deals, as Forbes Sports’ Bryan Toporek has pointed out, like Gordon Hayward, Kevin Love, that could work.
The Sixers likely only have the mid-level contributor exception in free agency.
But if they make enough room under the apron for the non-tax paying MLE, I wrote about six guys who might be interested in that price range (via @ForbesSports): https://t.co/OxmxGYdvLY
—Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) June 26, 2022
The team has also hooked up with Eric Gordon recently, if they could tempt the Rockets into taking on Harris as a mentor to their young core.
Lots of ways this can be shaken. Few of the rumors we hear seem imminent. But the idea of a Harden-Tucker reunion in Philadelphia definitely has more smoke around it, even though the acquisition of De’Anthony Melton makes it more difficult to handle.