The team that drafted Ben Simmons with the number one overall pick in the 2016 draft will be sticking with him. Consequently, James Harden will not be a Philadelphia 76er. Instead, the former Houston Rocket was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday, where he will combine forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as part of the most lethal scoring Big 3 ever assembled.
The blockbuster deal shakes up more than just the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers were also part of the mega-trade. Cleveland will receive Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen, signaling to the rest of the league that they are unafraid to unleash a lineup consisting of five centers at once. Meanwhile, the Pacers will receive young guard Caris LeVert and a 2023 second round pick for the price of Victor Oladipo, who is now a Houston Rocket. Along with Oladipo, Houston’s haul for Harden includes Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, four unprotected first round picks, and four unprotected first round pick swaps.
So what does all this mean for the Philadelphia 76ers? For the Simmons-truthers, it must be a sigh of relief. When it became clear over the offseason that James Harden wanted to part ways with the Houston Rockets, many immediately looked towards the Philadelphia 76ers as a viable destination for the perennial MVP candidate. The reasons for this connection were fairly obvious. First, Philadelphia’s new president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, had extensive experience building rosters around the unique talent of James Harden. Those teams won incredible amounts of regular season games and were a CP3 injury from reaching the finals in recent memory. Secondly, the 76ers had the assets to create a valuable trade package, highlighted by their young blue-chip star Ben Simmons.
Ultimately, the deal didn’t get done. No one can know for sure exactly what was on the table, but sources speculate that the package for Harden included Ben Simmons along with some combination of Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and future picks. It is unlikely that the Sixers would have given up all of the above for Harden but in any case no compromise was made.
This leaves the current 76ers roster intact, and that’s not such a bad thing. The season is still young, but this team currently sits atop the Eastern conference and Joel Embiid has been playing the most inspired basketball of his career. An obvious downside of not landing James Harden is the fact that now he plays for a team that will certainly be challenging the 76ers in the Eastern conference. Following the Harden trade, Vegas was quick to alter their odds in such a way that makes clear that the Brooklyn Nets are the new favorite to come out of the East. They figure to be an absolute juggernaut on offense as they possess three of the most prolific scorers in NBA history. However, questions about defense, chemistry, and bench depth linger.
The Sixers refusal to part with Simmons, along with other pieces of their young core like Maxey, demonstrates a commitment to what has been built largely from the ground up. Simmons has stated that he is “ecstatic” to not have been traded and hopefully he reflects that sentiment in his play the rest of the season.
The Philadelphia 76ers will get their first crack at the new-look Brookly Nets with a home game on Saturday, February 6th. With five stars across both lineups, it figures to be an exciting Eastern conference matchup and a possible playoff preview.