The Philadelphia 76ers should trade for James Harden. They should be willing to give up quite a bit for him. The arguments against trading for him focus on issues that I can’t bring myself to care about.
I don’t care that Harden is 31 and Ben Simmons is only 24. Harden is far better now (and probably for at least the next two or three years) than Simmons will ever be. If the Sixers were title contenders this season and for the foreseeable future, then this would be a real debate. But they were the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference last year, and they’ll likely finish around fourth or fifth in the conference this year. Joel Embiid turns 27 this season and has a long history of injuries. The time to contend is now, and Harden takes the Sixers from a middle-of-the-pack playoff team to a true contender and a favorite in the East.
I don’t care about James Harden’s defense. It’s really not that bad. Of course he’s not as good as Ben Simmons defensively (few are), but he’s better than his own reputation suggests. Last season, Harden measured as a positive defender across numerous metrics, including D-PIPM, D-RPM, D-BPM, and D-RAPTOR, and he’s shown an ability to make big defensive plays when it counts, like this series-winning block on Luguentz Dort, who had 30 points in the game:
Losing Simmons obviously hurts the defense, but Daryl Morey will still have time to add more wing defenders (maybe he could even get P.J. Tucker, who is unhappy about his contract situation, as part of a Harden deal). Adding Harden to the offense gives the Sixers a player who is both a primary creator and an efficient three-level scorer, something they haven’t been able to pair with Joel Embiid throughout his career. Harden is also elite in isolation, which would be a huge help to the Sixers when they need a bucket at the end of close games. The gain on offense would easily outweigh the loss on defense.
I don’t care that the Sixers would have to give up fan favorites in the deal. Ben Simmons is great, but James Harden makes the Sixers much better. It may take more than just Simmons. I’d strongly prefer to hang on to Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton, but they can’t be completely off the table. I have no reservations about including Matisse Thybulle in the deal. Hopefully the Sixers have the leverage to get Harden for less than I’m expecting, but I’m fine with them doing whatever it takes. New players will come in and become new fan favorites, especially if they're making the team better.
I don’t care that some people don’t like watching James Harden play basketball. I understand why, even though I don’t agree. Ultimately, I don’t care what style of basketball the Sixers play at all — as long as they’re winning, it will be fun, even if that means Harden and Embiid combining for more free throw attempts than some entire teams.
I don’t care that star players are being traded more frequently the past few years, making it likely another top player becomes available sooner rather than later. Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to come to Philly. Neither did Anthony Davis. There’s no guarantee the next disgruntled star will have the Sixers on his short list. James Harden does. Unless your team plays in New York or Los Angeles, you are in no position to pass on a great player with the expectation that an opportunity for another player of that caliber will come along soon.
I don't care about rumors of James Harden not getting along with Chris Paul. Clearly, they were able to set aside their differences enough to make a legitimate run at an NBA title that only fell short because of a hamstring injury and a historically poor shooting performance. That’s enough for me. I don’t need him to be best friends with every player on the team. Plus, on a team built and branded around Joel Embiid, Harden probably won’t have the power to strongly influence personnel decisions like he did in Houston.
I don’t care that he’s attempting to force the Houston Rockets to trade him. He has spent eight years there, and now he wants to be on a team that can compete. The Rockets traded key players in the shortened offseason and are almost certainly not contenders this year. It’s not as if he asks for a trade every year.
I don’t care about the report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that Harden occasionally takes a day off to party in Vegas or that he’s often late to meetings. Sure, it’s not ideal. But his play on the court speaks for itself. Over the past four seasons, Harden has finished second, first, second, and third, respectively, in MVP voting. If you prefer advanced metrics, Harden finished the 2019-20 season first in RAPTOR, second in BPM, third in RPM, and fourth in PIPM.
I don’t care that people thought Harden looked overweight in his first preseason game.
I’m confused...did James Harden gain weight or did Rick Ross lose weight. pic.twitter.com/dzWmZ5HVei— Take Away Sports (@TakeAwaySports1) December 16, 2020
He looked like he was in good enough shape to me.
He has also never missed more than ten regular season games in any of his 11 NBA seasons despite people speculating about his weight throughout his career. Seems to me like his body is holding up just fine. This is where I’ll also point out how Sixers fans who don’t want to trade Simmons for Harden ignore that Ben has already missed significant time with major foot and back injuries.
I do care that Harden was out partying during a pandemic. That’s a really shitty thing to do. But it's not a good reason to just write him off as a bad person and not trade for him.
I don’t care that James Harden isn’t perfect. He would give the Sixers the best chance to win a title. All the reasons people have used to argue against trading for him are silly and don’t really matter. The Sixers should do what it takes to get Harden to Philly.