The Clippers’ anticipated trade for James Harden might still happen. It just didn’t happen on the first day of the NBA’s free agency negotiating window.
In the days leading up to Friday’s annual summer swap meet, it seemed like Harden-to-the-Clippers was going to be a quick deal. The 10-time All-Star guard had picked up his $35.6 million contract option for next season with the Philadelphia 76ers, enabling the team to explore trades and the Clippers had been mentioned as a likely landing spot. The interest was reportedly mutual.
The Clippers have long desired to find a top lead guard to pair with All-Star wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and Harden, a former league MVP, fits the bill. But according to reports citing unnamed sources, the 76ers wanted to see what other offers might transpire and that has delayed any potential deal.
Harden, who attended Lakewood’s Artesia High, is seen as a veteran point guard who can help the Clippers become a title contender. The former league scoring champion averaged 21 points, 6.1 rebounds, 10.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 37 minutes per game this past season while helping the Sixers reach the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But the Sixers are believed to be seeking value for Harden and that could cost the Clippers a host of role players. The Clippers are not expected to give up either Leonard or George, players who Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has said they want to build around.
Among the names that have been mentioned in any potential trade are Marcus Morris Sr., Robert Covington and Norman Powell – all three of whom are on expiring contracts. Terance Mann’s name also has been included, but the Clippers seem reluctant to let go of any of their young players.
The Clippers did make two minor moves Friday, sending cash to the Detroit Pistons for the draft rights to center Balsa Koprivica, the 57th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The Clippers reportedly also guaranteed Brandon Boston Jr.’s contract and extended Jason Preston’s guarantee date from July 7 to July 18.