Sixers: Will the Kings trade for Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris?

The Sixers fandom has been engaged feverishly in the hypotheticals game since the summer. With Ben Simmons still on the roster and the Feb. 10 trade deadline looming in the not-so-distant future, the next few weeks should be a fruitful period for trade machines worldwide.

A lot of the most recent chatter has revolved around the possibility of trading both Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris to the Sacramento Kings. Sam Amick of the Athletic recently reported that the Kings are seriously considering acquiring both players, despite the strenuous financial commitment.

That said, what would a trade look like, and what are the odds such a deal actually comes to fruition?

The mechanics of Sixers-Kings trade involving Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris

76ers Get
De'Aaron Fox
Harrison Barnes
Buddy Hield
Kings Get
Ben Simmons
Tobias Harris

This is the widely surmised basis for a Simmons-Harris trade to Sacramento, with obvious room for more players/picks to be layered on top of any deal. On paper, there’s a compelling argument for both sides. The Sixers get rid of Harris’ massive contract while gaining three quality rotation pieces. The Kings finally shake things up in a major way, and probably get better in the process.

That said, this deal is not without its complications.

First and foremost is De’Aaron Fox. The Sixers’ preference of Tyrese Haliburton over Fox is widely known, and Haliburton makes infinitely more sense in the context of Philadelphia’s current roster. That said, if the Sixers want to use Simmons to offload Harris’ contract, then Sacramento isn’t going to give up its most valuable asset. The Sixers can either push for Simmons-Haliburton, or settle on Fox in an effort to be more financially flexible next summer when names like James Harden, Bradley Beal, and Damian Lillard begin to surface again.

I very much understand the desire to move off Harris’ contract — both from the fanbase and from the front office. It’s one of the most egregious contracts in basketball, and he has performed severely below expectations this season. That said, if including Harris’ contract means the Sixers consequently settle for a less appealing top player in return, it could lower the team’s ceiling long-term.

There is, of course, a counterargument here. Some would simply argue Fox is superior to Haliburton, even in context of Philadelphia’s roster. He is certainly the more broadly “productive” player right now, and while Haliburton has the makings of a great complementary piece, he’s not exactly No. 2 scorer material. If the Sixers are unloading both Simmons and Harris, there’s even more pressure to find a player who can help Joel Embiid carry the offense. Fox is an imperfect fit (especially with the up-and-coming Tyrese Maxey) but he’s averaging 20.9 points and 5.1 assists per game (after averaging 25.2 points and 7.2 assists last season). He can run the show when called upon.

It will inevitably come down to whether or not the Sixers view Fox as a suitable centerpiece in return for Ben Simmons. Frankly, it may come down to whether or not Daryl Morey believes he can flip Fox for a superstar further down the line. Does Fox pique the interest of Portland, Washington, or Brooklyn the same way Simmons would?

Beyond the Fox debate, the rest of the trade is a win for Philadelphia. Harrison Barnes has been better than Tobias Harris this season, and his contract is much more manageable. He also brings many of the same leadership qualities to the locker room. Buddy Hield is essentially an expensive bench guard, but even his $22.4 million contract is more easily offloaded than Harris’ contract.

It would appear Sacramento is on the verge of foundational change at the trade deadline. Harris’ contract is a bitter pill to swallow for any team, but the Kings’ desperation (and track record of incompetence) makes them a real candidate to acquire the 29-year-old power forward. In fact, they are probably the only candidate to acquire Harris, which certainly impacts the landscape of a potential Simmons trade. If the Sixers can’t get a top-25 player in return, does it compel them to hold on until next summer, or use Simmons to get off of Harris’ burdensome contract?