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Report: 76ers linked to James Harden & former Sixer Jerami Grant in latest Ben Simmons trade talks

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are 8-7 and in the midst of a very rough patch. Without the services of their superstar Joel Embiid, the team has dropped the last five contests. They’re on a road trip and things don’t appear to be getting any easier any time soon. Embiid is battling a COVID-19 bout, and missing his 6th consecutive game.

There was also news on the Ben Simmons front recently. Earlier on Thursday, The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported there are 30 players who would satisfy the Sixers in a Ben Simmons trade.

Liberty Ballers’ Tom West offered some great analysis on that situation:

“When considering how high Daryl Morey’s asking price has remained throughout this saga, it’s safe to say that there are probably quite a few unrealistic targets on that list of around 30 players. There are plenty of stars who would be great returns for Simmons in a trade, but that doesn’t mean they’re remotely attainable. However, if there are genuinely five to 10 players who would satisfy the Sixers and could be available in the next year or two, as the team believes, that’s more intriguing.”

While many of us spent the day wondering what 30 players might be on that list, we got clues about two possible names. The latest report suggests the team has their eye on Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden and Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant.

Via Keith Pompey, of The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“The team has engaged in ongoing discussions with the Detroit Pistons to acquire Grant, another forward, a young player, and a draft pick in exchange for Simmons, league sources said. One source said power forward/center Kelly Olynyk and second-year swingman Saddiq Bey were mentioned as players who could be included in a possible deal. However, a source said the Pistons are unlikely to include Bey, a Villanova product, or Olynyk.”

It’s hard to make sense of a report that names a perennial all-NBA talent like James Harden and one that includes a secondary type in Grant. This season Grant is averaging 18 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.1 blocks, 31 percent from downtown and is getting to the line 5.2 times per night. He’s really good but he doesn’t exactly scream missing piece to the puzzle.

So why would two players so disparate in talent both be on a short list here?

Pompey continues:

“A person close to the Sixers said the team would want a more high-profile player than Grant in exchange for Simmons. The source added that the team hasn’t spoken to the Pistons lately.

But multiple sources said the Sixers have, and that the discussions were centered around Grant. The Athletic reported Thursday the Sixers have a list of 30 players they’d accept in a Simmons trade.”

So maybe they have their “pie-in-the-sky” ideas and their “welp maybe” deals prepared and it’s all trickling out to the media?

Jerami Grant

There are some terrific narratives swirling here with Grant too. Sit down for a second.

Sam Hinkie then Prez of the Sixers drafted Jerami Grant in the second round once upon a time. Sam locked Grant up long-term on the now mostly defunct “Hinkie Special” salary. Then Bryan Colangelo took over and traded Grant for a future pick, and a few months of Ersan Ilyasova (not the stint with Marco Belinelli, the prior stint). Colangelo received what we thought was a fake first in return for Grant. He used that pick to trade with the Orlando Magic to nab Anžejs Pasečņiks. Then Elton Brand took over and got that pick back by trading away Colangelo’s first overall pick in Markelle Fultz. Fast forward. Then Mike Muscala hit a crazy shot in the bubble which turned the fake-first into a real first and Daryl Morey, who took over, selected Tyrese Maxey. So imagine if that story ended with “and then Hinkie’s former boss, Morey traded another one of Colangelo’s first overall picks in Ben Simmons all to reacquire Grant.”

It would truly be a full circle of wackiness. But most reports have the Sixers setting their sights significantly higher than a player of Grant’s caliber so this one probably doesn’t have legs at this point.

(Editor’s note: A source tells Liberty Ballers that the Sixers are not currently having trade discussions with Detroit and don’t view Grant as a fit.)

James Harden

The other element of the report is that the Sixers have their eye on James Harden. Harden hasn’t looked quite right so far this year.

One night he looks super sluggish. The next he has his burst back. Much has been made about his adjustment (or lack thereof) to non-basketball moves the league cracked down against. The Nets insist their star is still ramping up from a summer spent rehabbing his grade two hamstring issue. He’s averaging 20.3 points, 7.67 rebounds 8.8 dimes on 39.5 percent from downtown. But he hasn’t played like his usual perennial MVP caliber self. Is this a new normal for him or is he going to play his way back into form?

The Beard was eligible to sign a four-year max extension last month in Brooklyn. He opted not to, setting him up for his first ever unrestricted free agency. If he earns it he could command around $270M in total on a five-year deal by staying put. The Sixers would not be able to compete with that number...but if Harden wanted to reunite with his former GM they could attempt to sign-and-trade him for a long-term deal still worth a truckload of money.

The Sixers could opt to wait and see how things play out with the Kyrie Irving sitch. Maybe Harden, who has recently made clear he wants to stay in Brooklyn for good, gets a wandering eye with discord in Brooklyn.

You know very well that Daryl Morey loves James Harden. And you know well that Morey doesn’t always care if he doesn’t have the right amount of cap-space. Remember when he terrified Sixer fans that the Rockets would sign Jimmy Butler in 2019, and leave the Sixers with Eric Gordon as Houston assembled a Harden, Chris Paul, JB super team? It didn’t happen, but that Morey might be thinking along these lines is still intriguing.

That dream would mean keeping Ben Simmons in Philly through the trade deadline. But would he play or continue to seek treatment for his mental health?

Embiid update

Finally, the Inky piece notes that Embiid is unlikely to play in the Sixers road trip which ends Wednesday the 24th. The report says The Process is also dealing with knee soreness. It’s more than a bummer. He wish him well and hope he fully recovers from his bout with the virus and that his knee issue resolves. If he were able to return after the road trip (knock wood) it would mean having missed nine games.

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