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Sixers chasing PJ Tucker; Matisse Thybulle and No. 23 pick are bought to create salary-cap space

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Will Daryl Morey bring the Houston Rockets from the East to Philadelphia?

Morey was the Rockets’ general manager for 13 seasons before being hired as the 76ers’ president of basketball operations in November 2020.

Then, in July 2021, former Rockets CEO Tad Brown was hired for the same position at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which oversees the Sixers, New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. And Morey acquired former Houston star James Harden in a blockbuster trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 10.

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Now, the executive is looking for former Houston power forward PJ Tucker, according to league sources. Sources have also said the Sixers are looking to make a three-team trade that could involve Matisse Thybulle and the No. 23 pick to create space. Sources have said the Sixers are trying to trade Tobias Harris but are having a hard time getting teams to accept his lucrative contract.

» READ MORE: Jaden Hardy thinks he would fit “excellent” with the Sixers and their 23rd pick in the draft

But it was made public Monday that Tucker would opt out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season with the Miami Heat to become a free agent. Multiple sources say the Sixers intend to offer him a three-year, $30 million contract. Time will tell what will happen. But a source added that there is a mutual interest between Tucker, 37, and the Sixers.

Things could change before free agency kicks off at 6 pm on June 30, but league executives believe there’s a good chance Tucker could become a Sixer.

Right now, the Sixers don’t have the cap space available to sign him for $10 million per season. As a result, they would have to clear space for their salary to fit.

But there has been talk around the league recently about the Sixers’ interest in Tucker despite a person close to the Sixers refuting what league sources say.

Teams cannot trade free agents until the start of the free agency period. Any previous discussion is considered manipulation.

The Sixers, however, could try to make some things work with the three-team trade. The Sixers are looking for a third team to help facilitate the trade. To get Thybulle and the first round, sources say the Sixers are asking a third team to give up a first-round pick to make the deal work.

The Sixers have said they want to keep their core players — Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Harris and Harden — intact. However, league sources say the team is looking for suitors for Harris, who has two years and $76.9 million left on his contract.

Harris, a power forward, could be expendable if the team acquires Tucker. While not ideal, the pairing could work with Harris sliding to small forward depending on the matchups.

Tucker would defend the opposing team’s best striker. But buying Harris might have more to do with the Sixers wanting to shed his salary rather than adjust.

The Sixers will also buy Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green.

Despite his age, Tucker is a solid defender who excels at corner kicks from the corner. Acquiring him would allow Embiid to get his wish.

» READ MORE: Four years later, the Sixers’ trade of Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith on draft day looks worse than ever

Following the Sixers’ second-round loss to the Heat, Embiid spoke about his desire to play with someone like Tucker.

“It’s just physical and tough, and they have some of those guys,” Embiid said. “Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said we’ve had those kinds of guys. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never have PJ Tucker. That’s really what I’m trying to say.

“I think the physical, once you get to the playoffs or later rounds, you need it. You need those games that are really hard.”

Tucker played three and a half seasons in Houston before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 19, 2021. He helped the Bucks win the 2021 NBA title before signing with the Heat in free agency last summer. .

Meanwhile, ESPN reported that the Phoenix Suns and Sixers are potential suitors for Rockets guard Eric Gordon, who has two years left on his contract. The 33-year-old Gordon will earn $19.5 million next season and has a $20.9 million non-guaranteed contract in 2023-24.

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