Philadelphia — Tobias Harris drove the lane, tossed up a runner and buried the winner in what turned out to be his final shot for the Los Angeles Clippers.
His packed bags needed a new destination. Next stop, Philadelphia.
The 26-year-old Harris is headed to the 76ers as part of a late-night deal that suddenly gives the team the best starting five in the Eastern Conference and stamped them as legitimate title contenders.
Harris is ready for the move — he tweeted early Wednesday a GIF from the opening credits of the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” showing Will Smith’s character playing basketball.
The Sixers can only hope this trade turns into a story all about how the East got flipped-turned upside down.
They paid a steep price for the free agent: Sensational rookie guard Landry Shamet and four draft picks are headed to the Clippers. Philadelphia traded forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala to Los Angeles, too.
The Sixers also acquired former Pistons center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott as part of the deal.
Harris, playing for his fifth NBA team, is having a breakout season with the Clippers. He averages 20.9 points and shoots nearly 50 percent from 3-point range and is expected to start with All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, along with Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, to form the best starting lineup this side of Golden State.
“We are in the unique position to contend now and we think this trade positions us well for the postseason,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand said in a statement. “Tobias is one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA and possesses an innate ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, while Boban and Mike provide valuable skillsets, size and depth to our team. All three players bring high character to our locker room and we are excited about their fit alongside Joel, Ben, Jimmy and our entire roster.”
The Sixers suffered in the early years of “The Process” but are clearly in a win-now mode. Harris and Butler both will be free agents this summer and both could command a maximum-level contract.
The Sixers’ four picks sent to the Clippers are their lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick, a 2021 first-rounder, a 2021 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.
The Sixers, who were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last season, are 34-20 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
This could be the first of several major deals expected before the NBA trade deadline passes today at 3 p.m. Eastern. Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans, Memphis is shopping Mike Conley and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is on the market.
The Raptors sent reserve guard Malachi Richardson, a 2022 second-round pick and the draft rights to Turkish player Emir Preldzic to the Sixers for cash considerations.
Richardson has appeared in 22 games for the Raptors this season, averaging 1.4 points per game. In 12 games with Toronto’s G League affiliate, he averaged 20.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 35.2 minutes.
Also Wednesday, the Heat sent Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to the Suns for Ryan Anderson, helping alleviate the logjam of guards that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has been dealing with all season.
Washington traded Otto Porter Jr. to the struggling Chicago Bulls for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis.
The Dallas Mavericks took Harrison Barnes out of their win over Charlotte in the third quarter because he’s about to get moved to Sacramento, according to two people familiar with the negotiations there.