James Harden is a Sixer.
Bask in that for moment, Sixers fans.
The former MVP is reuniting with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia in a deal that will send Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets, a team source confirms to Liberty Ballers. The Sixers also received veteran big Paul Millsap. Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to report the deal. Charania has also reported that Harden is opting into the player option he has for next season as part of the deal.
The Sixers being able to hang on to their young standouts in Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle has to be considered a big win. Losing Curry will hurt, but you have to give to get. Millsap should slot in nicely as a stretch big in Drummond’s stead.
After nearly being traded for each other a little over a year ago, the deal is done, thus ending one the strangest sagas in sports history. Simmons gets his wish and is no longer a Sixer. Morey got the player he coveted all along.
The biggest winner here is Joel Embiid, who will play alongside one of the most talented perimeter playmakers in NBA history. Embiid is the MVP favorite and has the Sixers well within striking distance of the East’s top seed. Now he’ll finally get the perimeter shot creation this team has lacked since Jimmy Butler left. The Process and The Beard should create a formidable duo, one that could certainly vault the Sixers into title contention.
Quite frankly, it has not been a banner season for Harden. The 2017-18 MVP is averaging 22.5 points, which would be his lowest mark since his Oklahoma City days. His 57.6 true shooting percentage would also be his lowest since he was with the Thunder. Harden, now 32, has also been dealing with nagging hamstring issues dating back to last season.
It’s fair to note that Harden’s reported unhappiness with the current situation around the Nets seems to be the reason this deal went down. With Embiid at the peak of his powers — and able to play both home AND away games — and a better supporting cast (outside of superstar Kevin Durant and part-time superstar Kyrie Irving) it’s reasonable to think Harden will play better.
As has been the case for several Sixers draftees, Simmons’ tenure here was a strange one. The lasting image many will have is of the three-time All-Star passing up a wide-open dunk in Game 7 against the Hawks for an ill-advised pass to Matisse Thybulle.
And of course many more soured on Simmons when he requested a trade and refused to play for the Sixers this season while dealing with a mental health issue.
Last season, with Embiid producing an MVP-caliber season and Simmons the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, the team captured the East’s one seed with an ideal route to the Finals. But that optimism dissipated quickly with Simmons passing up a dunk attempt in Game 7 against the Hawks and shooting 34.2 percent from the free throw line for the postseason.
The Sixers exploring trade options made sense for all parties. The team could move Simmons for pieces that better fit Embiid and increase its chances of winning a title. For Simmons, it could represent a fresh start and perhaps lower expectations and scrutiny. After the team brass met with agent Rich Paul, everyone seemed to be on the same page as far as the Sixers exploring a trade.
Until they weren’t.
With training camp looming, a report surfaced that Simmons no longer wanted to be a Sixer and did not intend to show up to camp. Morey practiced patience all summer in waiting for the right deal to come along, only to see Simmons’ camp attempt to accelerate that process. The situation got uglier and uglier with Simmons receiving fines and a suspension even after reporting to the team. And the leaks of Simmons’ unhappiness and how he felt unfairly treated by the team threw more gas on the bonfire.
Apparently, Paul’s strategy worked.
No more summer shooting videos to analyze. No more debating the viability of a player that’s unwilling to shoot. No more discourse on whether Embiid and Simmons can win a title together. After a Rookie of the Year award, an All-NBA nod, two All-Defensive teams, and three All-Star appearances, Ben Simmons is a Net.
It certainly feels like the end of an era in Philadelphia.
And the beginning of a new one with James Harden.
I joined Jackson Frank and Jas Kang for an emergency episode of the Sixers Daily podcast. You can listen to the episode below:
Or through one of the following links: