The Sixers are reportedly on James Harden’s radar.
There’s a new development in the James Harden saga, as the former MVP and three-time scoring champ holds out of training camp in Houston. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Harden has “expressed to the Rockets that he would be agreeable” to a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.
This is noteworthy, if not unexpected. The Sixers are one of few contenders with a top-shelf asset — Ben Simmons — to build a trade package around. Houston is reportedly driving a hard bargain, but getting a 24-year-old Simmons on a five-year contract is about as good as Houston will get.
Of course, the Sixers should be reluctant to trade away Simmons. He is younger, on a longer contract, and he hasn’t spent the last week on a partying spree in the middle of a global health crisis. That said, when you have the opportunity to add a player of Harden’s caliber, very few teams are in a position to say no. Harden in a top-five NBA talent, and would instantly elevate Philadelphia to favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Last season, Harden averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in 36.5 minutes per game. He’s 31 years old, and therefore at the tail end of his prime, but it’s difficult to imagine Harden’s production plummeting sharply in the near future. He’s one of the most gifted scorers in league history.
Harden would not only give Philadelphia the closer it has desperately lacked. He would give them an elite playmaking engine in the halfcourt — one that could take immense pressure off Joel Embiid. The easy looks Harden could create for Embiid might single-handedly extend the latter’s career. No more five-man brawls to score in the middle of a crowded paint.
Philadelphia will inevitably need to give up more than just Simmons in a Harden trade. Draft compensation, as well as young pieces like Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, and Shake Milton, are all bound to come up in trade discussions. The Sixers should proceed cautiously, but even two years of James Harden means two years of real title contention.
Also on the Harden front…
There’s a good chance Houston drags this into the regular season, and Daryl Morey has been adamant about Philadelphia’s desire to keep Embiid and Simmons together. That said, attitudes change quickly in the NBA, and nobody has a better feel for Harden’s value than Morey.