Another day, another trade rumor.
Philadelphia Inquirer 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey wrote the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers have “made inquiries” about the availability of forward Tobias Harris in a Wednesday article.
“The Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Indiana Pacers have made inquiries about Harris’ availability, according to a source,” Pompey wrote,” Looking to add a veteran player, the Pacers are showing the most interest in the 10-year veteran.
“However, another source said the Sixers will only make a deal that would be hard to pass up. As a result, teams around the league believe the Sixers are overvaluing Harris and asking for ‘outrageous packages in return,’ sources say.”
Harris, a 12-year NBA veteran, has played in 827 games since he was first selected with the 19th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. During his time with five NBA franchises, he has earned comfortable averages of 16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. The former Tennessee Volunteer signed a 5-year, $180 million contract to remain with the Sixers after he was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019.
Cleveland needs a player who can at least be a short-term answer to its questions at the small forward. Though it was able to narrow its search for the solidified starter to forward Isaac Okoro and guard Caris LeVert by the start of the NBA playoffs, it couldn’t make up its mind for all five games against the New York Knicks.
But would Harris be worth the “outrageous package” the 76ers are looking for? And, even if he were, would the Cavs be able to afford it?
The Asking Price
Harris will have a $39.3 million cap hit for the 2023-24 season.
That alone should be enough to convince the Cavs to steer clear of the 30-year-old forward.
Harris will be in the final year of the contract he signed to stay in Philadelphia. He will become an unrestricted free agent in 2024. He earned an average of $36 million throughout his five-year contract, peaking at the lofty cap hit he will make next season.
Harris averaged 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season for the Sixers. He played in all seven matchups of the team’s seven-game series against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, earning 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 36.7 minutes played per contest.
Cleveland already has a few larger contracts to account for next season.
10 players at least have the option of returning for the Cavaliers next season. Guard Donovan Mitchell’s contract will have a $33.2 million cap hit, while center Jarrett Allen’s is valued at $20 million. Guard Darius Garland agreed to a five-year, $193 million contract that could be worth up to $231 million with the Cavs last July.
That’s not to say the Cavs are in a terrible financial situation.
The total cap hits of all 10 players, including Spotrac’s $34 million estimation for Garland and the non-guaranteed deals of three players, add up to just under $127.47 million. The figure puts them below the NBA’s new luxury tax threshold of $165 million. The NBA’s salary cap is projected to be $136 million, according to a Wednesday tweet from Spotrac contributor Keith Smith.
The team’s cap holds, or “the placeholder figures a team’s own free agent counts against their salary cap until he either signs a new contract or has his rights renounced,” add up to just under $59.77 million. That includes the $28.2 million cap hold for guard Caris LeVert and the $12.1 million hold for forward Dylan Windler.
“So long as a team retains the rights to a player, they are free to use whatever Bird rights they have to go above the cap to re-sign that player,” CBS Sports Basketball Writer Sam Quinn wrote in a 2022 article. “If they renounce that player, his cap hold goes off of the books and they can only re-sign him using a cap exception.”
No matter who they traded to get him, a trade for Harris would either add too much to the team’s total salaries or take too much of the talent on the roster to be worth it.
Even if the Cavs were to bring Harris in at a price that would benefit the team, would they be able to keep him on the roster for the foreseeable future? And, if they could, how much would he ask for?
Harris can fit with what Cleveland needs in the short term.
The 6-foot-8-inch forward has been a reliable scorer and shooter throughout his NBA career. He shot 50.1% from the field and 38.9% from the 3-point line last season and earned 20 points or more 18 different times last season. Harris has NBA playoff experience dating back to 2016, when the Cavs swept his Pistons in the playoffs’ first round.
Christopher Smith ·
Harris has shown signs of growth on the defensive end, a point former Sixers head coach Doc Rivers highlighted following a Game 5 win over the Celtics in May.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Rivers said of Harris’s defensive growth, via Sixers Wire. “What’s even more impressive about it is he’s doing it with not being the featured offensive guy.”
Even with his strengths and potential fit with Cleveland, finding a player who can be a long-term fit with the team’s big four would make more sense.
Garland is 23 years old. Cavs forward Evan Mobley is 22. Mitchell and center Jarrett Allen are 26 and 25, respectively. 11 players who saw time with the Cavaliers last season, including the team’s two-way players in forwards Mamadi Diakite and Isaiah Mobley, were 26 or younger.
Garland’s contract locks him down until the 2027-28 season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2028. Allen can be under contract for the Cavs until 2026. Mitchell still has two years left before he has a player option during the 2025-26 season.
Cleveland would only benefit from can find younger options or a player who wouldn’t cost as much to acquire at the small forward spot. Finding a player who could fit both categories could be tricky, but not impossible.
Either way, the Cavaliers have options.
As much as he could fit Cleveland’s roster, it’s hard to see how trading for Harris would be the right one.