Although the regular season starts in just over a week, we have no resolution about where 76ers star guard James Harden will play next season.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Harden “has not been present” with the team since Sunday. But we may not have a resolution to this saga any time soon.
There is apparently a “sizable gap” between the 76ers and Clippers when it comes to the negotiations on a potential deal for Harden, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
One of the main hurdles to jump through is whether or not the Clippers would willingly attach Terance Mann. However, according to league insider Jake Fischer, the Clippers are currently “unwilling” to include Mann in any deal for Harden (via Yahoo):
“Morey has been adamant he wants the Clippers to send a second first-round pick, plus a future pick swap and expiring contracts in exchange for Harden, according to league sources. Los Angeles has indicated no desire to part with more than one first-rounder and has little reason to do so, knowing there aren’t other bidders aggressively pursuing Harden’s services. The same goes for the Clippers parting with talented forward Terance Mann, sources said.”
So based on the aforementioned reporting, we can likely assume that if the Clippers decided to put Mann on the table, they could have Harden.
Mann was reportedly a coveted target of the Trail Blazers in talks for Jrue Holiday before he the former NBA champion was traded to the Celtics. The Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Keith Pompey, however, went as far as to say that Mann is “untouchable” in these particular talks.
While one would assume that their desire to hold on to Mann means they value him as a core member of the organization, that’s potentially not true.
Justin Russo noted that Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said the starting power forward spot could go to Mann but he is also competing with vets like Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum.
Asked Tyronn Lue if the starting four spot is one he wants to be by committee or if he wants a locked in starter by the time the season starts. Lue said the team hasn't decided which way yet, but mentioned the "three guys" who are competing for the spot — Mann, Covington, Batum.
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) October 18, 2023
That doesn’t make a ton of sense considering Covington and Batum were both hardly in the rotation for L.A. last season. Both logged their lowest minutes per game since their rookie seasons.
So why isn’t Mann beating these guys out for a certain starting spot if he is considered untouchable by the front office?
For what it is worth: They reportedly offered Mann to try and acquire Kyrie Irving last season, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. Perhaps that just means that the Clippers don’t really want Harden all that much.
Despite all of the deserved criticism that we can throw at the 2018 NBA MVP, durability is not an issue for him. He has played at least 75.0 percent of all possible games for his team in all but two of his 14 professional seasons.
Since joining the Clippers in 2019-20, however, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have both struggled with durability. Leonard has played in 52.2 percent of all possible games for L.A. while George has appeared in 61.3 percent.
Harden is still an elite playmaker and led the league in assists last season.
But maybe his rumored interest in becoming a scoring champion once again, as well as his willingness to demand trades, has given franchises pause about surrendering assets or offering him a long-term deal.