When Will The 76ers Find Their “James Harden Trade”?


The talk of trading/signing a superstar free agent has been an ongoing one for Philadelphia 76ers fans. With general manager Sam Hinkie’s plan looking to be taking steps to developing a formidable team, acquiring a superstar must happen much sooner than later.

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A trade that many Sixers fans look at as a possible comparison to this desired trade is the one between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets, which sent eventual superstar James Harden to lead a now perennial playoff contending Rockets team, after failing to agree with the Thunder on a contract extension. What we must realize, however, is the James Harden trade was quite rare in magnitude. The trade ended up working out for both teams. The Rockets got a star and the Thunder got a bundle of assets. It was a win-win.

Harden seemed to be the odd man out in OKC’s trio that included stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, so when the Rockets pulled the trigger on the trade that involved them sending 2 first rounders, a second rounder, and guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb for Harden and three “throw-in” players, many felt skepticism at first. Looking at this trade now, it seems like somewhat of a no-brainer, but remember Harden hadn’t hit the elite level of player he is now. This is an aspect that Sixers fans must remember, because when the time for a potential trade hits, it may not look as glamorous as it turns out to be.

Many factors come into play with trades. How is this going to affect the teams payroll? Will the player fit into our system and culture? Will the player perform the same way he did with his previous team, or perform better, or even worse? Trades are always a risk, a risk that Hinkie likes to take, especially with a team full of young and unproven players. The trade that turns Sixers nation on its head will have to come in the next 2-3 seasons, as players on the cusp of elite may breakout causing teams to increase their trade value. Add the amount of potential first round picks the 76ers hold the next three drafts, and you’ll see why a big trade will have to happen pretty soon.

The Sixers draft pick scenario looks like this, courtesy of nba.DerekBodner.com

Status of picks – By Year


  • 1st round pick – 76ers or Kings (Sixers get better of their own pick or Kings pick, assuming Kings pick falls in top-10).
  • 1st round pick – Lakers (unless it falls in the top 3)
  • 1st round pick – Heat (unless it falls in the top 10. Can swap with GSW if GSW pick is better)
  • 1st round pick – Thunder (unless it falls in top 15. Can swap with GSW if GSW pick is better)
  • 2nd round pick – Nuggets


  • 1st round pick – 76ers or Kings (Sixers get better of their own pick or Kings pick).
  • 2nd round pick – 76ers

So the Sixers may have a variation of 5 first round picks in the next two drafts, depending on where other teams finish this season.  This once again makes Hinkie the ultimate trade partner for opposing GMs. Let’s now look at some potential trade scenarios that we may hear about the next two seasons that could turn into the Sixers’ version of the James Harden trade. Remember, these trades are for players who have proved themselves as great NBA players, but haven’t hit the level of elite quite yet.

Sixers Trade: C Nerlens Noel, 2016 Lakers First Round Pick (or 2017 if the Lakers fall in the top 3 of the 2016 lottery), 2017 Sixers First Round Pick

Pacers Trade: SF Paul George, 2016 Pacers Second Round Pick

Some readers may think Paul George has already hit elite level, and I would agree. What makes him a valid trade candidate, however, is the fact that he is coming off of a major injury and doesn’t seem to be untradeable.

A lot of non-Sixers events has to happen for this trade to pan out. The Pacers must have a major internal strife, causing player unhappiness. We saw some signs of that when George announced his weariness of playing PF, but it seems as that situation has faded. The Pacers must also hit an on-court low, finishing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference signaling yet another rebuild. Lastly in this meltdown, George must be having the worst season of his career. All this would factor into the Sixers landing George.

I’m always against trading Nerlens Noel, but it seems like he would be the most valuable trade asset, outside of the seemingly untouchable Jahlil Okafor, for the Sixers. Adding in those two probable high lottery picks would seal the deal. This trade may seem like Philly is giving up a lot, but the potential of acquiring a 25 year old proven player that could make it back to elite level is too much to pass on. This trade would have to happen after the upcoming season.

Sixers Trade: Jerami Grant, Rights To Dario Saric, 2016 Heat First Round Pick, 2016 Nuggets Second Round Pick

Bucks Trade: Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2018 Mavericks Second Round Pick

Did you lean back and think “wow, this guy is an idiot”, yet? Well, let me tell you my logic in all this. The Bucks are in the bucket of teams of what I think are destined to never reach the Eastern Conference Finals with their current core.

Antetokounmpo has shown promise, but is still an unknown of sorts. So let’s hypothetically say that he once agains shows no signs of progressing to a top 15 player in the league this season. He then might be open trade bait. The problem is the Bucks will have him at a high price, even though he would be in the final year of his rookie contract by next offseason.

Jerami Grant is a lesser version of Antetokounmpo in terms of playing style, but Dario Saric is even more comparable. The two are both tweeners of sorts, with Saric projected to be a SF/PF and Antetokounmpo being able to play any position from PG to PF. Dario Saric is unproven and a huge risk, but he would be coming from overseas the next season, so the Bucks wouldn’t have to wait to see what they get.

The addition of the 2016 Heat pick would seal the deal and the Sixers end up with Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo is a great pick up for the Sixers, who could develop him further with their premier developmental program. He is a jump shot a way from being a terror in this league and lining up the 6’11” small forward with Noel and Okafor would be amazing to watch. The reason why swapping Saric for Antetokounmpo is more risky for the Bucks than the Sixers is because Antetokounmpo has produced somewhat in the NBA, while Saric still has yet to see the NBA floor.

Sixers Trade: 2016 Thunder First Round Pick (or 2017), 2016 Heat First Round Pick, Robert Covington

Magic Trade: Victor Oladipo, 2018 Magic Second Round Pick

If there is anyone on the brink of taking the next step into basketball greatness, it’s Magic shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo is a scoring floor general with a knack for getting to the basket. Defensively he is a lockdown defender with a keen sense of when to go for a steal, leading into some impressive transition dunks.

Oladipo is the guard the Sixers are looking for, a guy who can run the floor and score. Brett Brown is looking for a “pacey” guard and Oladipo would fit his offense perfectly. Although he wouldn’t spread the floor as much as other options would, Oladipo will take pressure off Okafor to carry the offensive workload. This trade would have to see the Magic underachieve yet again, and for Covington to has an even better year than he did last season. Seeing if Oladipo would break into stardom is a huge risk, but one with a huge payoff.

Hinkie will be the most aggressive he’s ever been in the trade market the next two seasons, as many of the pieces of this rebuilding puzzle come together, and he will do anything to get the final piece that connects everything else. The future is bright for the Sixers, as long as the right moves are made. With the confidence have in Sam Hinkie, it looks like fans won’t have to wait much longer for success.

Next: Welcome New Sixers To The Machine