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Sources: Sixers pursuing P.J. Tucker; Matisse Thybulle and No. 23 pick being shopped to create cap space

The Sixers are looking to shore up weak spots, especially on defense.

Miami Heat's P.J. Tucker reacts after making a three-pointer against the Boston Celtics during the first half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21, 2022,.
Miami Heat's P.J. Tucker reacts after making a three-pointer against the Boston Celtics during the first half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on May 21, 2022,.Read moreMichael Dwyer / AP

Is Daryl Morey bringing the Houston Rockets East to Philly?

Morey was the Rockets’ general manager for 13 seasons before being hired as the 76ers president of basketball operations in November 2020.

Then, in July 2021, former Rockets CEO Tad Brown was hired for the same position of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which oversees the Sixers, New Jersey Devils, and the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. And Morey acquired former Houston star James Harden in a blockbuster trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 10.

Now, the executive is pursuing former Houston power forward P.J. Tucker, league sources confirm. Sources have also said the Sixers are looking to make a three-team trade that could involve Matisse Thybulle and the No. 23 pick to create space. Sources have said the Sixers are attempting to trade Tobias Harris, but they are having a tough time getting teams to take on his lucrative contract.

» READ MORE: Jaden Hardy thinks he would be a ‘great’ fit for the Sixers and their No. 23 draft pick

But it became public on Monday that Tucker would opt out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season with the Miami Heat to become a free agent. Multiple sources have the Sixers intending to offer him a three-year, $30 million contract. Time will tell what will happen. But a source added that there’s mutual interest between Tucker, 37, and the Sixers.

Things could change before the start of free agency at 6 p.m. on June 30, but league executives believe there’s a good chance Tucker will become a Sixer.

Right now, the Sixers don’t have the cap space available to sign him for $10 million per season. As a result, they would have to clear space in order to fit in his salary.

But there has been league-wide chatter recently over the Sixers’ interest in Tucker even though a person close to the Sixers refutes what league sources are saying.

Teams are not allowed to negotiate with free agents until the start of the free-agency period. Any discussions beforehand is considered tampering.

The Sixers, however, could try to make some things work with the three-team trade. The Sixers are looking for a third team to help facilitate the trade. In order to get Thybulle and the first-rounder, sources say Sixers are asking a third team to give up a first-round pick to make the deal work.

It’s no secret that the Sixers, who want to contend for an NBA title next season, wanted to use a player and their first-round pick to secure a “win-now” type of player.

Here’s why the Sixers need to clear space.

The projected NBA salary cap for next season will be $122 million and the luxury tax level is $149 million. The Sixers will have more than $143.4 million tied up with 12 players, assuming Harden does pick up his $47.4 million player option. They’ll also take a cap hit of $2.5 million by keeping the No. 23 pick, pushing their salary to around $146.9 million.

If the Sixers add a sign-and-trade this summer or use their $4.1 million, biannual exception or the $10.3 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which is the best path for Tucker), they can’t go over the $155.7 million luxury-tax apron next season.

The Sixers have said they want to keep their core players -- Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, Harris, and Harden -- intact. However, league sources are saying the team is looking for suitors for Harris, who has two years and $76.9 million remaining on his deal.

Harris, a power forward, could be expendable if the team acquires Tucker. While not ideal, the pairing could work with Harris sliding down to small forward depending on the matchups.

Tucker would defend the opposing team’s best forward. But Harris being shopped could be more to do with the Sixers wanting to shed his salary as opposed to fit.

The Sixers are also shopping Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, and Danny Green.

Despite his age, Tucker is a solid defender who excels at making corner three-pointers. His acquisition would enable Embiid to get his wish.

» READ MORE: Four years later, the Sixers’ draft-day trade of Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith looks worse than ever

Following the Sixers’ second-round loss to the Heat, Embiid talked about his desire to play with someone like Tucker.

“He’s just physical and he’s tough, and they have a few of those guys,” Embiid said. “Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said we’ve had those types of guys. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never have P.J. Tucker. That’s really what I’m trying say.

“I think physicality, once you get to the playoffs or the later rounds, you need that. You need those guys that are really tough.”

Tucker played 3 1/2 seasons in Houston before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks on March 19, 2021. He helped the Bucks win the 2021 NBA title before signing with the Heat in free agency last summer.

Meanwhile, ESPN reported the Phoenix Suns and Sixers are possible suitors for Rockets shooting guard Eric Gordon, who has two years remaining on his contract. The 33-year-old Gordon will make $19.5 million next season and has a non-guaranteed $20.9 million deal in 2023-24.