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NBA takes away 76ers’ 2023, 2024 second-round picks for tampering with Tucker, House

James Harden and 76ers president Daryl Morey

CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 15: James Harden #1 (L) and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey of the Philadelphia 76ers look on during a press conference at the Seventy Sixers Practice Facility on February 15, 2022 in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

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Would the 76ers do it all again? Yes. Or, at least, probably. Ask us again in June.

After a four-month investigation, the league announced that it has rescinded the Philadelphia 76ers’ second-round picks in the upcoming NBA draft (2023) and the following one (2024). The investigation found “that the 76ers engaged in free agency discussions involving two players (P.J. Tucker and Danuel House, Jr.) prior to the date when such discussions were permitted.”

The 76ers released this statement:

“The Philadelphia 76ers fully cooperated with the NBA’s investigation and acknowledge the league’s ruling. We’re moving forward, focused on the season ahead.”

Let’s take a second to remember what went down this summer: First, James Harden opted out of the final year of his contract, worth $47.4 million, and became a free agent. Philadelphia GM then used the cap space Harden’s move created to sign P.J. Tucker to a three-year midlevel exception contract (one minute into free agency) and soon after ink Danuel House. A couple of weeks later, Harden re-signed in Philly for “what was left” of the space the 76ers had under the hard cap, or $33 million this season (with a player option for next summer, or he can become a free agent).

Was there tampering? Obviously. Pitbull’s backup dancers aren’t as well choreographed as Morey’s offseason moves.

The more interesting notes and questions are:

• The NBA found no wrongdoing in Harden’s moves this summer. Some people around the league saw Harden’s opt-out and new contract as a “wink-wink” deal where he would get a big payday next summer. We’ll see on that front. However, while this may be a clear case of a player taking a pay cut to fill out the roster around him, Harden was within his rights to do so (this wasn’t re-negotiating an existing contract, something not allowed under the CBA). Was this planned as part of the 76ers’ offseason? Again, obviously. Does anyone take a $14 million pay cut just because they think they’re making too much money? But Harden and the 76ers didn’t break any rules according to the league. (Does anyone really think Harden didn’t know what he would re-sign for after this was all said and done? If so, I have a Nigerian Prince you should talk to.)

• Tampering is rampant in the NBA. The only time investigations and fines come down is when: 1) Another team complains to the league; 2) It’s so blatantly obvious it can’t be ignored. This situation fits both criteria.

• The league says its investigation into the Knicks and potential tampering in the signing of Jalen Brunson is still ongoing.

• Will the fine of two second-round picks stop a team from tampering in the future? No.

Or, at least, not a team in the position of the 76ers. This is a franchise that saw itself on the brink of title contention but was shown in the playoffs last season it needed two-way players off the bench to beat the top teams. So Morey tampered and landed them. They were moves largely lauded by fans and pundits, moves that could put the 76ers into title contention (early returns from the first weeks of this season notwithstanding). For a team in the position of the 76ers, Daryl Morey is going to agree with Rams general manager Les Snead about future picks. He’s all in for right now.

But the 2023 NBA Draft just got a little shorter.