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Multiple reports have suggested the Philadelphia 76ers are interested in signing P.J. Tucker in free agency this offseason, but clearing cap space to pull off the move may require other moves.
Per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the Sixers are looking to make a three-team trade that could involve Matisse Thybulle and the No. 23 pick to create space. Sources have said the Sixers are attempting to trade Tobias Harris, but they are having a tough time getting teams to take on his lucrative contract.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also reported on Tuesday night that the Sixers were dangling Thybulle in trade talks:
On Tuesday, Tucker reportedly opted out of his player option with the Miami Heat for the upcoming season, making him a free agent.
For the Sixers, he would add a dose of much-needed defensive acumen and toughness. Not to mention that his familiarity with former teammate James Harden, his proficient shooting from the perimeter (41.5 percent from three last year) and his postseason experience would make him a natural fit for a team in win-now mode.
What the Sixers don’t have much of, however, is wiggle room on the cap sheet.
If Harden opts into his $47.3 million player option for next season, the Sixers will have an active roster bill of $153.4 million with 13 players under contract, per Spotrac. If they keep the No. 23 overall pick, that would add around $2.5 million to the bill.
That has them well over the $122 million soft cap, and a Thybulle trade alone wouldn’t clear nearly enough cap space to sign Tucker.
While the Sixers will have the taxpayer mid-level exception at their disposal worth $6.3 million, the option Tucker already declined for next season was for $7.3 million. Chances are, he sees a raise in his future, with Pompey reporting that Philly would offer him a three-year, $30 million deal.
But the Sixers have a workaround.
If Harden opts out, the Sixers could get to around $30.2 million in cap space by releasing Danny Green ($10 million non-guaranteed deal) and trading Thybulle. That would give them room to pursue veterans like Tucker, since the Sixers could wait to make re-signing Harden official until after they brought in other veterans in free agency, since teams can go over the cap to retain their own free agents.
The Sixers are expected to be busy on the phones in an effort to reshape the roster around Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Harden, with Pompey reporting that Green, Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz are also being shopped.
But Thybulle is the most appealing of the bunch, with a far more palatable salary than Harris ($37.6 million next season, $39.2 million in 2023-24) and more upside than Milton or Korkmaz.
Thybulle is one of the game’s elite perimeter defenders, but his poor shooting (32.4 percent from three for his career) has made him an offensive liability earlier in his career, and saw him go from a regular-season starter this past season to playing just 15.2 minutes per game in the postseason.
If his perimeter shooting improves, Thybulle would scratch the “3-and-D wing” itch that every team in the NBA has. Given that his name keeps popping up in trade rumors, however, the Sixers appear to have run out of patience in that regard.