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Report: Sixers are one of James Harden’s top trade destinations

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Harden to Philly could be a real possibility.

Philadelphia 76ers v Houston Rockets Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

NBA trade season is here. Besides the recent news of Chris Paul being dealt to the Phoenix Suns, the state of the Houston Rockets and their two star players, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, wanting out has been the most interesting story to follow so far. The idea of the Philadelphia 76ers pursuing Harden in recent weeks has mostly felt like wishful thinking for fans, even after the Sixers hired Daryl Morey. But now it sounds like it could be more of a possibility.

Shams Charania has reported that Harden wants to be dealt to a contender, and along with the Brooklyn Nets, the Sixers are one of his top choices.

It’s important to not overlook the last line of the report, noting that the Rockets are happy keeping Harden and Westbrook into the 2020-21 season. If they want to try and work things out (even if it’s just with Harden) or at least wait until they get their dream trade offer, they can. Just yesterday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets were telling teams that they are planning to “run it back” with Harden next season.

But if Harden really wants to be traded to Brooklyn or Philly and the Rockets choose to capitalize on the high interest while he’s unhappy this offseason, the Sixers have an opportunity to add one of the best offensive players the NBA has ever seen.

Harden’s mix of creation as a step-back artist, driver, free throw machine, and genius passer is incredible. He generates elite offenses by himself. The Sixers can’t hope to acquire anyone close to his level, and he’d address every offensive issue they’ve had in terms of lacking perimeter creation. Plus, Daryl Morey is as high on Harden as anyone, and spent years assembling contenders around him in Houston.

The Athletic’s Kelly Iko has added that the “Harden-Philadelphia connection” has grown stronger recently.

Ben Simmons seems like the inevitable trade chip for the Sixers to assemble their potential package around. From there, they can fill out the offer and add necessary draft compensation. If Morey is willing to trade Simmons, he’s an asset — a young star on a five-year deal — that not many teams can match. When comparing possible offers with the Nets, who have some notable young pieces but no one near Simmons’ level, the Sixers should be able to win fairly easily.

As good as Simmons is, and despite him being seven years younger than Harden with three more years left on his contract (if Harden opts to enter free agency when he has a $46.8 million player option for 2022-23), you have to include him in a deal if it means you can land one of the league’s very best players in James Harden.

I’m probably higher on Simmons than most, and the idea of trading him shouldn’t be taken lightly by any means. There are positives — such as his age, potential to grow, and the long-term security of his new contract — to keeping him. But the talent upgrade for Philly is too great, and the chance to improve the team’s shot at a title is too hard to pass up. It also can’t be assumed that Simmons will still be happy with the Sixers in five years and want to re-sign beyond his current extension.

The Sixers would instantly jump up the Eastern Conference standings if they’re able to assemble a duo of James Harden and Joel Embiid to lead them. We can only wait and see how this situation develops and what the Nets (and any other teams around the league) try to offer.