With just three weeks left until training camp opens, the Philadelphia 76ers were still looking to make tweaks to the roster. The Donovan Mitchell blockbuster looked like it might open the door to the Sixers snagging one of Utah’s remaining pieces while a Philadelphia homecoming looked potentially in the works with Markieff Morris.
But ultimately, it was Montrezl Harrell who the Sixers tabbed as the ideal candidate to serve as a backup center to Joel Embiid this season. Harrell was in some legal trouble this summer, but recently had charges of marijuana trafficking reduced.
The announcement coincided with a major boost in league interest in Harrell. No, the Sixers weren’t alone in teams interested in Harrell’s services. But fortunately, Philadelphia might have gained an inside boost from within the organization.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, James Harden was a key figure in getting Harrell to agree to a deal with Philadelphia.
“James Harden played a part in bringing Harrell to Philadelphia too — both with his contract creating roster flexibility and recruiting him to take on the role of backup center with the Sixers. They have history together with the Rockets,” Woj tweeted immediately following the signing.
“Sixers star James Harden played a significant role in recruiting Harrell to the Sixers,” Wojnarowski wrote in an article for ESPN following the signing, “selling him on a reunion of their time together with the Houston Rockets, sources told ESPN. Harden’s willingness to negotiate a new deal with the Sixers helped create the salary-cap space to sign three former Rockets teammates, including Harrell, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.”
Harden has been the gift that keeps on giving for the Sixers so far this offseason.
Harden Takes a Pay Cut Causing League Investigation
The “new deal” that Harden referenced hasn’t been all fun and games. At the end of July, the league opened an investigation into Harden’s paycut with the Sixers.
“One of the central elements of the league’s inquiry includes questions on Harden’s decision to decline a $47.4 million player option for 2022-23 and take a pay cut on a new two-year, $68 million deal, sources said. Around the league, there have been questions about whether there is already a handshake agreement in place on a future contract — which would be in violation of collective bargaining rules,” Woj wrote in July for ESPN.
If the league comes down on the Sixers, it could cost them. The Bulls, Bucks, and Heat have all been stripped of second-round picks in connection with their own tampering investigations.
What’s Next for Philadelphia Following the Harrell Signing?
By signing Harrell, the Sixers have a few tough decisions on their hands. Prior to signing the former Sixth Man of the Year, the Sixers were already bumping up on the maximum number of roster spots a team is allowed to carry into the season.
That could mean bad news for a few Sixers down the end of Philadelphia’s roster. Charles Bassey and Paul Reed, two rotation big-men, could see their minutes cut into this season with Harrell, who projects to slot in as the team’s backup center.
Or worse, the team could outright cut or waive Bassey or Reed to clear a spot, despite their youth and potential upside.