With Harden declining option, six free agents who might fit for Sixers


It appears James Harden’s decision to decline his player option will meaningfully expand the Sixers’ possibilities. 

With that said, it’s worth remembering that the Sixers currently have 12 players under contract and can’t simply hand out overwhelmingly persuasive offers to anyone they want.

Still, it looks like the team should have useful resources to improve its depth in free agency, which officially starts Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck reported the Sixers expect to have access to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (approximately $10.5 million), the bi-annual exception (about $4.1 million), and “some wiggle room for sign-and-trades.” 

We don’t know what the exact figures of Harden’s new deal will be, but all of the above reinforces the 32-year-old guard’s willingness to take a substantial pay cut to help the team add quality free agents. Harden’s option for the 2022-23 season was approximately $47.4 million.

So, which players might be reasonable Sixers targets? 

P.J. Tucker 

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein are among those who have reported on the Sixers’ interest in Tucker. We’ll dive more into his fit with the Sixers should the team ultimately sign him, but for now it’s sufficient to say the 37-year-old’s comfort alongside Harden, tenacious defense on star scorers, and ability to play center are positives he’d bring to the table. 

Danuel House Jr. 

Asked hours after shipping out Danny Green last week in a trade for De’Anthony Melton about where the Sixers stood on the wing, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey kept it simple.

“We might need another wing,” Morey said.

Like Tucker, House started next to Harden on Morey’s Rockets. He earned a rotation spot on the Jazz late last season and averaged 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes. The best version of House is a player that makes good things happen — deflections, blocks, miscellaneous energy plays — while also blending in nicely alongside stars. 

Cody Martin 

The Hornets extended a $2.2 million qualifying offer to Martin, making him a restricted free agent. 

The 26-year-old wing would be a similar addition to Melton in that he’s got a track record of forcing turnovers well and is perhaps poised to develop further. He’s not a high-volume three-point shooter, though Martin made a dramatic efficiency leap last season, hitting 38.4 percent of his triples. 

Juan Toscano-Anderson 

The Athletic’s Anthony Slater reported Toscano-Anderson is now an unrestricted free agent because the Warriors did not extend a $2.1 million qualifying offer. 

Toscano-Anderson is versatile, selfless and capable of filling the unexpected holes that inevitably need to be plugged over the course of a season. His shooting declined after a 2020-21 campaign in which he made over 40 percent of his threes, but bench players are always prone to small sample size-related fluctuations. Toscano-Anderson will take open jumpers and he enjoys setting up teammates for them, too. 

Bryn Forbes 

Regardless of positional label — combo guard, small two-guard, etc. — Forbes is a shooter. He’s converted 41.3 percent of his NBA threes and hasn’t been below 38.8 percent over the last five seasons.

Perhaps the Sixers won’t want a third player at or around 6-foot-2 in their rotation (along with Melton and Tyrese Maxey), but Morey values shooting around stars that draw frequent double teams. 

Serge Ibaka  

Morey suggested at his post-draft press conference that he doesn’t view backup center as a priority in free agency.

“I know (head coach Doc Rivers) is very excited with what Paul Reed gave us down the stretch. … It’s a long shot on a great, winning team like ours, but the hope is that (Charles) Bassey could contribute at some point this year,” Morey said. “Paul will hopefully build on what he did at the end of last year.

“Again, we’re going to be opportunistic with a bigger spend in free agency. There will be opportunistic looks at minimum spends. But I think the bar will be high on a minimum spend at the backup center spot because we feel like we’ve got some guys who can contribute.”

If the Sixers do wind up going for a veteran center, Ibaka, Gorgui Dieng, Robin Lopez and Bismack Biyombo are names to consider. None of those players strike us as essential or likely to have a large impact, but they’re theoretical options if the Sixers desire a more traditional, “know what you’re going to get” center than the 23-year-old Reed, 21-year-old Bassey and perhaps the 6-foot-5 Tucker. 

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