After weeks of speculation, rumors of James Harden’s top preferred destinations, and rumblings of how much the Houston Rockets want in exchange for their superstar, it looks like a deal could be happening very soon. The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that the Rockets are examining offers from two finalists: the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
Charania opened with the following in his latest report:
Sources tell The Athletic the Rockets are sifting through offers on a potential James Harden from two teams — the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers — that could culminate quickly. Approximately two months after he first asked to be traded, and with the Rockets (3-6) plummeting while the strain of it all reveals itself so plainly among his teammates, the situation is clearly reaching a breaking point and a deal appears all but inevitable. But which one will the Rockets pick?
Charania also mentioned that the Nets have prepared an offer including four first-round picks and three future pick swaps. It’s clear that Brooklyn is going to be incredibly aggressive.
Regarding the Sixers, Charania reports that the Rockets are, unsurprisingly, after a package focused around Ben Simmons, and that they also have interest in Matisse Thybulle:
“The Rockets have pursued a 76ers package centered on All-NBA star Ben Simmons, sources said. Boston and Toronto have also expressed interest at various points. Simmons, a two-time All-Star, has continued to grow his game on the defensive end of the floor. As far as star talent, the Rockets would be able to acquire a player in Simmons whose talent level may not be available elsewhere. ...
“One player whom the Rockets and 76ers have discussed in potential packages is 2019 first-round pick Matisse Thybulle, with Houston having interest in the defensive-minded forward, sources said. The Rockets have had a steep asking price from all interested teams, and the threshold for Philadelphia — and other contenders — to give up one or multiple first-round picks with young assets is unclear.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted that the Rockets are currently keeping Harden away from the team until a trade is done, and that things are moving fast.
The Rockets are planning to keep Harden away until a trade is done --- with front office weighing best final offers from Brooklyn and Philadelphia, sources tell @ramonashelburne and me. Process is moving quickly now. https://t.co/YDZkAKcG5d— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 13, 2021
Make sure you read the full piece from Charania for all the details.
Marc Stein of The New York Times has reported that the Rockets want a package headlined by Simmons and Tyrese Maxey. Given the fact that Simmons is likely already the best player that the Rockets could receive in a trade for Harden, having to add a player as promising and valuable as Maxey (who also has the benefit of being on a rookie contract for four years) clearly isn’t ideal. If possible, as the Sixers would be aiming for a title right away with a Harden trade, it would be better to use more draft picks as sweetener with Simmons instead.
There’s already been a lot of discussion regarding a potential Simmons-Harden trade and whether or not it’s something the Sixers should do, so I’ll keep this fairly brief. Clearly, Simmons has a ton of valuable. He’s a terrific young player coming of an All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Third Team season, and at only 24 years old on a five-year contract, he provides long-term security as well. One downside with Harden is that he’s 31, with a solid but less ideal two years on his contract (plus a player option for 2022-23).
However, I’ve always argued that if you can get Harden for a remotely reasonable price, you do it (i.e., something like Simmons, Thybulle and a pick or two — a package of Simmons and a bunch of first-rounders and multiple young players seems like more than the Sixers should have to offer, given Simmons’ value). Ultimately, if it costs Simmons, it’s absolutely worth it for Philly.
The Sixers are a better team this year. But they still haven’t addressed the issue they already had last season of lacking more high-level, go-to perimeter creation. That’s going to limit them in the playoffs against top defenses, and it’s something they need to become a true title contender.
James Harden is a perennial MVP candidate. He’s one of the greatest offensive players in NBA history, thanks to his ridiculous level of high-volume, high-efficiency scoring and phenomenal passing. He’d provide the kind of much-needed perimeter creation and upgrade to the Sixers’ offense that would help them capitalize on the kind of MVP-level season that Joel Embiid is having right now.
Anyway, wherever you land on the argument of trading for Harden or not, it looks like a deal is going to be happening soon.