The San Antonio Spurs have a lot of salary cap space remaining to take on a big contract in a salary dump trade.
The San Antonio Spurs are currently positioned to be best suited to either get compensated for taking on big contracts or to help facilitate a blockbuster trade. Given they are in a rebuild, their best usable asset at the moment is cap space.
While the inevitable Russell Westbrook trade has yet to occur, there are plenty of other players signed to big contracts that could be moved in a salary dump style trade. Among those names is Tobias Harris, who is set to earn $37.6 million during the 2022-23 season.
Harris is a good player who is coming off a solid season with averages of 17.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Why would the 76ers look to trade him? It has less to do about his talent or impact, but about whether it’s an efficient use of salary cap space both in the present and long-term.
Harris is signed through the 2023-24 season, which could become an issue for the 76ers when accounting for their future financial situation. Harden took substantially less money this offseason as he will earn $33 million this season, but it remains to be seen how long he’ll take discounts.
Joel Embiid will earn $43.7 million when he begins his new contract next season. Harden could also decline his player option to negotiate a new contract next summer. Meanwhile, Maxey will begin his second NBA contract the following season.
If the 76ers feel that keeping Harris for this season affords them the best chance to contend for a championship, then waiting makes sense. However, if they can swing a deal for more cohesive complementary talents to field a deeper depth chart, that could be an enticing possibility.
In a recent trade speculation piece, NBA Analysis Network included the Spurs in part of some trade ideas that would help the Philadelphia 76ers to fuel their pursuit of an NBA title. San Antonio would send out three veterans in exchange for Tobias Harris and a future draft asset.
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: C Jakob Poeltl, F Doug McDermott, G/F Josh Richardson
San Antonio Spurs Receive: F Tobias Harris, 2029 First-Round Pick (PHI)
The idea of the 76ers moving on from Harris’ salary was largely predicated on the possibility of executing a star acquisition for a player like Bradley Beal. He ended up agreeing to a supermax contract extension and that’s no longer an option.
Right now, there isn’t much of a competitive landscape for the 76ers to use Harris’ contract for salary matching in a blockbuster trade. They do not have what it takes to land Kevin Durant and the Utah Jazz desire future draft capital for Donovan Mitchell in their trade negotiations.
There is a case to be made for the 76ers to pursue a trade to make them a deeper team, though. Now they have P.J. Tucker to deploy in their starting lineup as a complementary option. Adding three effective role players would make their bench unit one of the deepest in the NBA.
If the 76ers want to focus their offense on the top three options — Embiid, Harden, and Maxey — they could benefit form trading Harris sooner rather than later. Maxey has improved each season and will need more usage. Harris, on the other hand, isn’t able to be utilized enough as it is within the organic flow of their half-court offense.
The risk for the 76ers would be Poeltl entering the final year of his contract. It seems rather unlikely that he’d be satisfied re-signing to be Embiid’s backup when he has the talent to be a starting center on a winning team.
The Spurs could benefit from waiting to pursue a deal of this nature. The value of it seems fair for now considering the 76ers do not have the urgency to have to move Harris’ contract right now. However, it’s best to capitalize on a team that is desperate to find a taker for a big contract at the right moment.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
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