The NBA is investigating the Sixers‘ free agency moves for possible tampering and “early contact,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
As Wojnarowski details, James Harden declined his $47.4MM player option and instead took a pay cut by signing a two-year, $68.6MM deal with a second year player option. That gave the Sixers the flexibility to use their full mid-level exception to sign P.J. Tucker and their bi-annual exception to sign Danuel House — two of Harden’s former teammates with the Rockets under president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who is now with Philadelphia.
Marc Stein first reported that the Sixers were likely to face a tampering investigation, and he was also one of the first reporters to link Tucker to Philadelphia, with rival teams reportedly convinced that Tucker was signing a three-year deal for the mid-level multiple days before free agency officially opened.
Some around the league have wondered whether the Sixers and Harden already have a future deal in place, which is against the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wojnarowski notes. Such a handshake agreement would involve declining his player option in 2023 and signing a lucrative new contract at that time.
The Sixers are complying with the investigation, Wojnarowski adds. The Knicks are also likely to face a tampering investigation due to an early free agency agreement with guard Jalen Brunson, as Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote last week.
The Heat (Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade last summer) and Bucks (Bogdan Bogdanovic deal that fell through in 2020) both lost their 2022 second-round picks as a result of previous tampering investigations, and the Bulls will lose their 2023 second-rounder for their early sign-and-trade agreement for Lonzo Ball in 2021.