Despite everything going on behind the scenes, the Philadelphia 76ers are having a successful season. Joel Embiid is showing what he's capable of when he is the undisputed top option constantly surrounded by shooters. Tyrese Maxey has proven he will be a key piece going forward. Even Andre Drummond is doing his part. Philly is fifth in the Eastern Conference, and while they aren't quite a championship contender, the fact that they're even functioning is an accomplishment considering how hard Ben Simmons has been trying to force his way off the team.
One player who has not been bringing his A-game is Tobias Harris. He is averaging 18.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game on 45.9 percent shooting from the floor and a horrific 29 percent from three. There's decent statistical output there but his terrible efficiency stands out, and when Harris is making $35 million the numbers across the board are simply unacceptable.
That is why we're hearing his name in trade rumors today. Marc Spears said the Sixers are trying to attach Harris to any potential Simmons trade on his most recent appearance with Brian Windhorst on the Hoop Collective podcast (transcript via RealGM):
"I'm hearing they want to include Tobias Harris," said Spears of Philadelphia's trade talks with the Atlanta Hawks.
"Me too," replied Windhorst.
"That is the word out there because they can't necessarily get an All-Star they want in return right now, as the Sixers have continued their talks, they've talked to teams about trading Tobias and Ben."
It is obviously going to be extremely difficult to trade Simmons and Harris to the same team and diving down the hole of multi-team trades to see how they could send both out in one fell swoop is a convoluted exercise. But if the Sixers are including Harris in trade talks about Simmons, the logical next step is to put him on the trade block and see who's interested.
Where could Harris go? It's going to be hard to find any legitimate suitors since there are still two years left on Harris' deal after this season with an increasing salary. He'll make $39 million as a glorified role player in the final year of his contract. That's a tough sell. But there's always someone out there looking to make one team's trash their treasure.
The Rockets did not want Simmons last year, but maybe they want Harris this year? It is a short list of teams who have the contracts necessary to match Harris without gutting half the roster and Houston qualifies because they have John Wall hanging about. His deal is larger than Harris' but the Sixers can make a trade work if they really wanted to, and they should. Wall is probably the most useful player they could get for Harris, a table-setter offensively who doesn't need to carry the load he once did but can in a pinch. Presumably, anyway. We haven't seen Wall on the court yet which means there is an inherent risk here, but one worth taking if it means they get off the Harris deal. Houston would need a sweetener to take on the burden of paying Harris tons of money to stand in the corner but are two years away (at least) from contention. It's a possibility.
Oklahoma City Thunder
This is the ever-present "break in case of emergency" option for any team looking to dump salary. The Thunder are permanently open for business as long as you make it worth your while. Sam Presti would happily absorb Harris into his team's cap if the Sixers are willing to send out picks and maybe a young player depending on how desperate they are to ditch the scoring forward. Presti would probably keep Harris around for the rest of the year then try to flip him somewhere else. It is far from the most impactful trade but it can happen without much trouble if the Sixers really want to get this salary off the books.
The Kings appear the likeliest team to engage in some kind of trade with the Sixers for a few reasons. They have tradable contracts they've been trying to dump for a while now (like Buddy Hield) and are willing to make even the most irrational moves if they think it'll help them break their 15-year playoff draught. Desperation and the means to shake up the roster make for a stew brimming with potential for chaos. Enter Harris, who would not help things very much but has flashed enough scoring prowess that the right team could talk themselves into him being under-utilized in Philly. A trade involving Buddy Hield and Tristian Thompson would work financially, and the Sixers would be thrilled to get Hield in exchange for Harris even if Thompson is both expensive and useless. A big win for Philly but a trade easy to see the Kings making.