The reports are coming hot and heavy concerning the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets swapping James Harden for Ben Simmons. Kevin O’Connor analyzed those rumors for The Ringer this morning, also including a couple of sourced reporting tidbits as well. One item of note was that Tyrese Maxey is “totally off the table” in a deal for Harden, which is the strongest language we have heard to date. Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice reported a few days ago that the “early indication is that the Sixers are balking at including Maxey in any deal for Harden.” Here’s the relevant Maxey section from O’Connor’s piece:
“Sources say Maxey is totally off the table. He’s only 21, and is averaging 16.9 points and 4.8 assists per game in the second year of his career. He hustles on defense, is selfless and clutch, and does wild things like hitting layups while falling horizontally out of bounds. He can drain shots off the dribble and now he’s comfortably making 3s.
Harden is 32 and hasn’t looked like the same All-NBA-level player for two years now. He’s about to demand a four-year extension that could be worth over $230 million, but he was an MVP, and now he’s just an All-Star. Maxey is at the beginning of his career arc. What if Harden is nearing the end of his?
I’d worry about committing to all that future money if I were the Nets. Simmons would allow the franchise to maintain more financial flexibility; he is still just 25. Harden could fall off, which matters less for the Sixers since their priority is to immediately maximize another potential MVP season from Embiid, who has a long injury history. The Sixers need to worry about now, and if Maxey ascends, Harden could eventually evolve into a more complementary role.”
This news will surely make the majority of you happy. In a Liberty Ballers poll over the weekend, only 19 percent of over 2,200 respondents were willing to part with Maxey in order to facilitate the Harden deal this week. Sixers management appears aligned with the majority of the fan base. I agree as well, for the reasons KOC succinctly laid out. Maxey checks all the boxes, and I think the Sixers would greatly regret letting him get away.
The other notable portion of the article concerned where the minimum line drawn would be, as it appears as though Danny Green is very much on the table. From The Ringer:
“In a Harden-for-Simmons deal, Philly would need to add about $2.5 million or more in salary to make it a valid trade. But I’m told someone like Danny Green is more likely to be included than one of Philly’s young players. Curry is an integral part of the Sixers’ offense, and without Thybulle they’d lack a perimeter stopper. Harden would provide more than what Simmons does on offense, but the latter’s absence is still massive on defense. Philly understandably wants to keep Thybulle. Green is more expendable. He’s useful, but not quite in his prime anymore.”
This makes sense. Green is 34 years old and has had trouble staying healthy, both this season and last postseason. He’s a useful player, but you don’t let him hold up a deal for a player with the chance to swing your contention odds in a meaningful way like Harden. Most of you agree — in that same LB poll, only 16 percent of you were not willing to include Green in a Harden deal.
While conversations might not be as far along as many might have hoped, a framework is becoming clearer. From the Sixers’ perspective, the line appears to be somewhere between Green (yes) and Maxey (no), with Seth Curry or Matisse Thybulle’s inclusion a murky who knows. It also seems like Brooklyn would greatly prefer to retain Harden until the summer, unless Harden or his camp ramp up the pressure to make the deal now. Stay tuned — there are still a few rumor-filled days for things to get worked out.