In an epic news prank Friday night, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the NBA has opened an investigation into The Sixers “for possible tampering” in the wake of the free agency’s moves.
“A central element of the league’s investigation includes questions about Harden’s decision to reject a $47 million player option for 2022-23 and cut his salary on a new two-year deal worth $68 million,” Wojnarowski added. “Across the league, there have been questions about whether there was actually a handshake agreement in place on a future contract – which would be a violation of collective bargaining rules.”
To which the hexagram must respond:
If Tucker was the primary complaint of tampering, it would be one thing. Team admins are not allowed to contact Free Agents or their representatives before the Free Agency begins at 6 p.m. on June 30, however Keith Pompey of Philadelphia Inquirer It reported a full week and a half earlier that the Sixers planned to offer Tucker a three-year, $30 million contract. Two days before the start of the free agency, Pompey added that he was expected to sign Tucker with the Sixers.
There was just one problem: If Harden picked his $47.4 million player option, the Sixers wouldn’t have enough room under the luxury tax arena to offer Tucker this contract.
After acquiring De’Anthony Melton on enlistment night, the Sixers would have had approximately $151.7 million committed to 13 players if Harden chose to participate. Although the salary cap and luxury tax threshold came slightly higher than expected — roughly $123.7 million and $150.3 million instead of $122 million and $149 million, respectively — they would have been just $5.3 million below the battlefield. This means the Sixers would need to spend $5.2 million to reach the full-level mid-level exclusion for non-taxpayers (which they used to sign to Tucker) and an additional $4.1 million to reach the semi-annual exclusion (which they were used at home).
It wasn’t hard to predict any of this. In the weeks leading up to free agency, it was clear that Harden’s cancellation of the agency and re-signing at less than his maximum salary would give the Sixers greater financial flexibility to complete their roster. Otherwise, it would be limited to the taxpayer’s $6.5 million mid-level exception, which would have likely put them out of the race in Tucker’s favour.
In mid-July, Harden made it clear that he turned down his player option and took $14.4 million less for next season specifically so the Sixers could add more help around him and Joel Embiid.
“I’ve had conversations with [team president Daryl Morey]Explain how we can improve and what is the market value of some players. I asked Daryl to improve the list, sign the one we need to sign and give me the rest.” Chris Hines Yahoo Sports. “That’s how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this point. I’m willing to take a little to put us in a position to make it happen.”
The Sixers may have hinted to Harden that they would give him a maximum contract next summer if he had a run-back spell in 2022-23, but he’s a 10-time All-Star and former best player in the league. This meaning is likely to be implied. What matters most is the number of years of his next decade. Given how hard the league would crack down on Joe Smith’s Minnesota Timberwolves back in the day, there’s little chance the Sixers would formalize such an agreement. (If they did, they deserved every bad thing in their path.)
Even if the Sixers plan to take Harden out to the max after this year, they still can’t make up for the $14.4 million he gave up this season. Based on current cap projections of $133 million for 2023-24, Harden’s maximum salary next summer will be $46.55 million, which is still less From the player’s choice he turned down this year. Had Harden made his choice, his maximum salary next summer would have been north of $49.7 million.
Harden went to the Western Conference Finals with both Tucker and House in 2017-18 with the Houston Rockets. It’s entirely possible that he was willing to take a big pay cut to bring both of them and increase his chances of finally winning a championship. Besides, with nearly $270 million in career earnings and an additional $30 million in endorsements this year alone, per ForbesHarden doesn’t exactly hurt for the money.
While team officials could not legally contact free agents, there was nothing to stop Harden from recruiting Tucker and House on his own. Although it is technically banned, the league has not dared to delve into the investigation of player-to-player tampering. (DeMar DeRozan had two in-person meetings with LeBron James before the free agency began last summer, according to Bill Oram, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick of The Athletic.)
Even if the Sixers she did Messing with Tucker and/or House, they certainly weren’t the only team that reached out to a free agent prior to June 30th. I mentioned Charania Denver Nuggets came to an agreement with DeAndre Jordan right when she started the free agency (which is still funny, by the way). Can we believe that Nuggets contacted the Jordan agent and agreed to the terms And the Did Charania leak all this within the first 60 seconds of Free Agency? And what about the owner of the monk who As Charania mentioned Was “Finishing a Deal” with the Sacramento Kings at 6 p.m. on point?
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks’ pursuit of Galen Bronson was one of the NBA’s worst kept secrets in the days before free agency.
Actual negotiations aren’t supposed to start until after 6pm ET on Thursday night, but league sources say there is a growing sense of capitulation in Dallas on Tuesday to the idea that Bronson really wants all those opportunities in New York — essentially that Substack’s Mark Stein reported On June 28th.
The NBA has landed a few teams for rigging in recent years – the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls in particular – but all three were to sign and announce deals either before the start of free agency or shortly thereafter. The league stripped all three teams of the second-round picks for those offenses.
If the application starts more strict than Which Messing with soon-to-be free agents, the NBA draft will only be one round from now on. Good luck finding a team no tampering \ tampering ! (John Hollinger, former CEO of Memphis Grizzlies, has pointed out a lot during his tenure at The Athletic.)
Fortunately, the Sixers’ worst-case scenario isn’t that bad. If the league finds them guilty, it will likely rob them of their 2023 second-round selection, which will end up in the mid-1950s. The Sixers also owe a more favorable second-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets or Brooklyn Nets, so they still have to get a second player either way.
If the league is sanctioning The Sixers, it should also investigate any other team whose autographs were leaked either before or immediately after free agency. (Especially the Nuggets, because docking them in the second round to sign DeAndre Jordan would be comedy gold.)
Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.comAnd the PBPStatsAnd the cleaning the glasses or basketball reference. All salary information via Spotrac or RealGM.