Fischer’s Latest: Lillard, Harden, Saric, Christopher, N. Powell

After a busy first two days of free agency on Friday and Saturday, the pace has slowed down on Sunday and Monday, with minimum-salary deals, rookie agreements, and two-way signings dominating headlines at Hoops Rumors.

While that shift is partly due to the fact that most of this year’s top free agents have come off the board, it’s also related to the trade requests submitted by Damian Lillard and James Harden, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who suggests that neither the Trail Blazers nor the Sixers are in a rush to make a deal. Some areas of the free agency market may be on hold until those situations are resolved, Fischer explains.

For instance, the Heat – who are Lillard’s top suitor – have told several free agents, including Malik Beasley, that they won’t be moving forward with veteran’s minimum signings until they have more clarity on the Lillard situation. Miami would presumably be a more attractive destination for veteran free agents with Lillard on the roster — and would have more roster openings to fill.

According to Fischer, Dario Saric and Josh Christopher are among the players who “could be involved” with the Heat depending on what happens with Lillard. Saric is a free agent, while Christopher is reportedly being traded from Houston to Memphis, so perhaps there are scenarios in which he’d be re-routed to Miami. Beasley apparently decided not to wait on the Heat, having agreed to sign with Milwaukee.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • Like Lillard with the Heat, Harden has conveyed a strong preference that he end up with the Clippers, according to Fischer. The fact that the two stars are each focused on a single destination is one reason why the Trail Blazers and Sixers are moving so deliberately, Fischer notes, since they don’t want to be “backed into a corner” and accept pennies on the dollar. It will be a challenge for Portland and Philadelphia to extract the best possible package they can for their respective stars without opening up the market to other teams, either as potential Lillard/Harden destinations or as third or fourth clubs in multi-team deals that get the star guards to their desired landing spots.
  • The Clippers appear better positioned to work out a deal with the Sixers for Harden than the Heat are with the Trail Blazers for Lillard, in part because Philadelphia is prioritizing expiring contracts and Los Angeles has plenty of those to offer, Fischer says. Still, he wonders if Clippers swingman Norman Powell – who has three years left on his contract – might hold some appeal for the Sixers, whose new head coach Nick Nurse had Powell on his 2019 title team in Toronto.
  • The fact that Harden has just one year left on his contract – compared to Lillard’s four – may make a dark-horse suitor more comfortable about rolling the dice on the Sixers guard, knowing that if it doesn’t go well, he’ll be off the books in a year and it won’t be a long-term problem, Fischer writes. On the other hand, team executives around the NBA aren’t necessarily convinced that Lillard, who has a reputation for being a consummate professional and can’t reach free agency until at least 2026, would play hardball and refuse to report to camp if he’s sent to a non-Heat team, Fischer adds.
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