The Sixers Are Going For It

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The Philadelphia 76ers have acquired not-quite-all-star forward Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers, in a blockbuster trade first reported overnight by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. They’ll have the strongest starting five in the East, by miles—and, given the risks they’re taking, now had better at least make the dang Finals.

In exchange for Harris, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, plus reserve center Boban Marjanovic and reserve forward Mike Scott, the Sixers are sending back rookie guard Landry Shamet, reserve big Mike Muscala, and forward Wilson Chandler—all regular parts of their nightly rotation, which was thin and top-heavy to begin with. They’ll also send the Clippers a protected 2020 first-round draft pick, an unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-round pick they own, and second-round picks in the 2021 and 2023 drafts. That’s ... a lot. No points for guessing they intend to re-sign Harris.


For the Clippers, losing their best player will set them back for at least the next few days, if not the rest of the season—though presumably that haul of picks could get them included as either a partner or a third in any number of potential trades between now and Thursday afternoon’s deadline, up to and possibly including an Anthony Davis deal. They were in a tricky spot with Harris, who’ll likely receive max or near-max contract offers in free agency but isn’t quite good enough to be the centerpiece of a team with serious ambitions; they’d need to improve even if they’d kept him, and re-signing him would make that difficult.


For the 76ers ... they’re shooting their shot! That legitimately rules! This is a clear and unambiguous upgrade and, assuming everybody fits in reasonably well, may very well make them the frontrunners in the East. Harris is one of the league’s most efficient outside shooters—something the Sixers desperately need, as their offense tends to completely fall apart whenever 34-year-old J.J. Redick leaves the floor—and ought to fit in beautifully as an inside-outside tandem with Joel Embiid. Marjanovic is a huge upgrade over Muscala as Embiid’s backup; Scott, uh, is fine. This is a very good trade for the Sixers.

This is also the second huge trade Philadelphia general manager Elton Brand has made just since November centered around receiving a second-tier star—first Jimmy Butler, now Harris—who can be a free-agent at the end of the season. In those two trades he’s sent out a total of seven players, five of them valuable parts of this season’s rotation, and five draft picks. There’s a frighteningly near-at-hand possible universe in which the Sixers come up short in the second round again, say, to the same Toronto Raptors who comfortably smushed them in Philadelphia last night—and both Butler and Harris depart over the summer, leaving them with a team definitively worse than the one they had at the beginning of this season and with drastically fewer avenues for improving it. It’s a big gamble! Nothing ventured, nothing frickin’ gained! I’m extremely into it.

But all that other stuff comes later. Shooters shoot, and the Sixers are shooting, and now maybe some other teams will also have to shoot their own shots or risk falling behind. This is cool. Good trade season, so far.