Remember that boring NBA trade deadline almost everyone was predicting a few short weeks ago?
The Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers are the latest teams to remind us that #ThisLeague neither sleeps nor slows. They completed a blockbuster trade late Tuesday night/ungodly early Wednesday morning that landed Tobias Harris in The City That Loves You Back. Here are the full details, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:
- Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protection), 2021 first-round pick (unprotected from Miami, via Philadelphia), 2021 second-round pick (from Detroit, via Philadelphia), 2023 second-round pick (from Detroit, via Philadelphia)
- Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott
For the collective bargaining agreement crowd: No, this does not work in the trade machine. It'll be broken up into separate transactions.
On to the winners and losers of this blockbuster!
To Be Determined
You're damn right we're kicking things off with a hedge. The Sixers are taking a massive risk.
Punting on free agency isn't a big deal. Philly had pathways to prime-time cap room but was never guaranteed to land a big fish. Harris will be one of this summer's top-10 free agents, and the Sixers should have zero qualms with paying what it takes to keep him. He doesn't turn 27 until July and polishes off one of the NBA's most lethal-looking starting fives.
At the same time: Holy wow.
Harris is the second free-agent-to-be the Sixers have acquired this season (Jimmy Butler), and they paid a steep price to get him. Shamet is having a helluva rookie campaign, and that 2021 Miami pick remains one of the league's tastiest trade chips.
Giving up this much for Harris locks the Sixers into a wildly expensive core. If both he and Butler command max money, Philly will have more than $101 million committed to a four-player nucleus that features them, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. That number will mushroom to almost $130 million by 2020-21 if Simmons signs a max extension.
Butler and Harris will soften the blow should they wind up signing below-max deals (possible). The Sixers are still looking at a massive, concentrated investment for a core that may not include more than one top-10 player, depending on how Butler ages and Simmons develops.
This isn't necessarily a problem. The Sixers are trying to win now, and they're built for it. They're deeper after this trade despite the three-for-three swap. Losing Shamet stings, but Harris is a huge upgrade over Chandler, who's sidelined with a quad injury, and Philly added two playable bodies in the frontcourt.
If the Sixers can pick up another shooter before Thursday's deadline or on the buyout market, their chances of emerging from the Eastern Conference will be appreciably better than they were a few days ago. That matters.
Los Angeles Clippers
Kudos to the Clippers for recognizing that pushing for the West's No. 7 or 8 seed wasn't worth standing pat.
Harris is playing like a borderline All-Star, but he's about to, in all likelihood, get paid like a superstar. The Sixers can afford to lock him into that contract. They have three other headliners. The Clippers don't even have one. Bankrolling Harris' next deal would've forced them to toe a fine line even if they landed Kawhi Leonard (player option) in free agency.
Acquiring this much for an expiring contract is a two-syllable haul. Teams seldom fork over what amounts to three first-round picks and cap relief for a non-top-25 player they'll need to pay in a few months' time. The Sixers are in a unique situation. They needed to shed salary this summer—most notably Markelle Fultz's money—to enter Harris territory without any assurances. Los Angeles capitalized on that uncertainty.
Not much changes about the Clippers' salary-cap outlook. They'll sleepwalk their way to more than $50 million in room if they waive Avery Bradley, but that was true before. They just needed to renounce Harris. That they preserved this flexibility while fetching meaningful assets is their biggest victory.
Opening another max slot still requires a Danilo Gallinari dump. The Clippers now have the draft ammo to broker one. But they might not need it. Gallo has a back injury, but he has played well enough this season for jilted free-agency suitors to absorb the final year of his contract into cap space over the summer without demanding a sweetener.
By the way: The Clippers are officially on Anthony Davis watch. As Woj noted, they didn't make this deal with cobbling together an offer in mind, but Shamet, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, these four inbound picks and their wealth of digestible salary gives them an interesting package.
It'll only get stronger over the offseason. Harris' on/off splits are wonky, but moving him should make the Clippers worse. They're probably going to keep the lottery-protected pick they owe to the Boston Celtics, which would give them another asset to dangle during the offseason.
Some won't be wild about Harris' fit with the Sixers. He's a good catch-and-shoot option, but the Clippers afforded him carte blanche to work off the dribble. More than one-third of his attempts are coming as pull-up jumpers. He won't have that same freedom in Philly. Just ask Butler.
On the flip side, if Harris was still wondering whether he'd secure a max or near-max deal in free agency, he has confirmation. The Sixers wouldn't have traded for him if they didn't intend to give him the bag.
Plus, anyone who tweets this out immediately after being shipped to Philly is an automatic winner:
Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings
The first rule of NBA-ing: Never, ever pretend to know anything about the Western Conference with certainty.
The Minnesota Timberwolves could rattle off a five-game winning streak and re-enter the playoff picture. The Clippers have responded to the loss of each top gun over the past year-plus with general friskiness. They loom. Weird stuff could happen in New Orleans if Davis hasn't played his last game with the Pelicans.
For now, though, the race for the West's final playoff spot looks like it'll come down to the Kings and Reggie Bullock-led Lakers. Potentially, possibly, maybe no longer having to contend with the Clippers is a win.
Sacramento Kings, Again
Did you see the Lakers' 42-point loss at the hands of the Victor Oladipo-less Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night?
Did you see their latest offer for Davis? It included, approximately, their entire team, per the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner.
Better yet, did you see this picture?
If you're the Kings, you have to be feeling good about your postseason odds.
New Orleans Pelicans
Whether the Clippers had Davis on the brain while selling Harris is irrelevant. The Pelicans have gained another prospective suitor whose offer should only strengthen after the trade deadline.
New Orleans can either use this to drum up another eleventh hour bidding war between the Lakers, the Lakers and the Lakers or let Davis' availability leak into the summer knowing it won't want for valuable contingencies should his preferred landing spot start spitting out lowball offers.
Harris and Boban really are a package deal, and we should all love-love-love it.
Fultz's future with the Sixers was, at best, unclear leading up to the trade deadline. It now appears nonexistent.
The Sixers began re-exploring the Fultz trade landscape before they acquired Harris, according to Jon Johnson of SportsRadio 94WIP and KYW Newsradio. He's now one of their best bargaining chips after they forked over two first-rounders, two seconds and Shamet.
Maybe that makes Fultz a winner. He needs a change of scenery. Nabbing Harris could increase the Sixers' urgency to move him while they have filler to attach (Furkan Korkmaz, Justin Patton, etc.). Lopsided-salary trades this summer are off the table after Philly forfeited cap flexibility.
Then again, adding another fringe star could compel the Sixers to be more selective while they shop Fultz. They need to flesh out their bench, but they profile as the top destination for any wings on the buyout market who care about playing time.
Sticking in Philly is a nightmare scenario for Fultz. The Sixers already didn't have the touches to adequately incorporate him upon his return, whenever that may be, with Butler, Embiid and Simmons in the fold. Harris only makes his reintegration that much harder—if impossible.
Either way, the path to Fultz's successful turn has narrowed. And for someone facing finite silver linings to begin with, this is a problem.
Los Angeles Lakers
Sources confirm that the Lakers can be both winners and losers.
Their playoff odds will benefit from Harris' departure, but this trade creates another potential Davis suitor. Even if New Orleans is only slightly more likely to wait until the offseason to move him, it'll be the Lakers' loss.
By sending Harris to Philadelphia and embracing a probable lottery berth, the Clippers are costing the Celtics an asset. As ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton explained:
"Additionally, the Clippers making the playoffs would have meant losing their lottery-protected first-round pick to the Boston Celtics. If the Clippers fall out of the eighth seed, they'll have another pick in the late lottery after drafting promising point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander No. 11 overall last year. Since the protections convert to a 2022 second-rounder if the pick isn't conveyed next season, the Clippers may never lose a first-round pick at all, or at the very least might have one later in the round in 2020 if they score big in free agency."
Golden State Warriors/Houston Rockets
It's impossible to know what the buyout market will look like for 2s and 3s. Teams aren't in the business of just giving up wings.
Still, the Rockets and Warriors profiled as two of the best landing spots for anyone—paging Wesley Matthews—who hit the post-deadline pool. Their proximity to a title helps, particularly in Golden State's case, but they're equally appealing for the playing time they have available.
The Sixers' rotation now blows both out of the water in that respect, if it didn't already. They need shooters and ball-handlers and generally bodies at the 2 and 3. Anyone who cares about balancing playing time with contention will choose them over other situations.
You hate to see small-market underdogs like the Rockets and Warriors potentially get the shaft, but the Sixers are once again positioned to be the biggest buyout-market winner.