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NBA roundup: latest on Harden-Simmons, Beal, more Harris-to-OKC rumors, McCollum to New Orleans

Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

There is truly no place more marvelous than Sixers Twitter a couple days before the trade deadline. - Andrew Unterberger

It’s deadline week, friends, and the rumors are flying. Let’s take things piece-by-piece.

James Harden-Ben Simmons latest

Sixers and Nets nation are on freeze frame right now as it’s hard to focus on smaller pieces of news. The Sixers are reportedly open to trading Paul Reed or Isaiah Joe, the Nets have tested the market on Joe Harris and Paul Millsap. These stories are going under the radar because two of the league’s biggest dominoes haven’t toppled... but they are teetering.

The latest from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who tried to catch us all off guard at 2:09am EST. Nice try Windy, but we caught it!

Per Windhorst:

“Whatever denials might exist as the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers stage a high-stakes game of NBA trade deadline chicken, sources across the league said Monday there absolutely is a chance of a James Harden-Ben Simmons trade happening before 3 p.m. ET Thursday.”

More from Windhorst:

“It may come down to which side is more comfortable living with the status quo [if nothing happens],” one general manager says. “Both sides probably want to create leverage by saying they don’t need to do anything, but you can see why both have reason to.”

That has been the posture both sides have taken in the past several days, each daring the other to make the first move. But it has not stopped back-channel conversations and movement by intermediaries, multiple league sources say.”

What’s notable here is that ESPN has been largely reserved in their reporting of the possibility of a Simmons-for-Harden swap prior to Thursday’s deadline, whereas The Athletic’s reporting has stated in bolder terms how real this immediate possibility seems. Windhorst’s above phrasing causes us to raise an eyebrow that things certainly might be quite real, at this stage.

Here’s a throw in that may not be Woj-level-credible but FS1’s Nick Wright does get into some interesting scenarios too:

On deadline week, every year, we all go to Nick Wright on “First Thing’s First” for our ironclad nuggets of information. I kid. But Wright brings up some good points here, and the points he makes were made similarly by Windhorst on his “Hoop Collective” podcast last night — that many around the league are beginning to view Harden in Philadelphia as somewhat of a growing inevitability.

*Eyeballs emoji*

It seems like The Beard really does have a minor hamstring issue. But here was how Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on this subject yesterday:

“Brooklyn is trusting that the injury is a legitimate hindrance to Harden playing now — an MRI on Saturday confirmed there was tightness — the way it is trusting his word that he wants to remain with the franchise, sources said.”

That Brooklyn is “trusting” his injury is legitimate and “trusting” his word that he’s committed to the Nets, frankly makes it all hard to trust.

And Sixers Twitter has followed the breadcrumbs trail:

Tobias Harris and Nets DEFCON1?

A little more on this theme with regards to Tobias Harris.

Per Zach Lowe on a recent “Lowe Post Podcast” with Ramona Shelburne, Lowe said:

“The thing that should scare the Nets is if they start hearing intel that the Sixers are gonna dump Tobias Harris into Oklahoma City’s cap space. Because if you dump Tobias Harris, and you take back an expiring or something and you dump some other pieces and you end up trading Simmons somewhere else, for very little money back, you do open up a cap slot that’s basically big enough for Harden’s max. And at that point, it’s DEFCON1 for the Nets....”

This doesn’t feel likely. Daryl Morey may already be headed for some intense “you flushed a prime season of Joel Embiid down the drain” criticism. If he were to part with Harris for cap-space and maybe make life even harder on Embiid (who has clearly signaled his trust in Morey) in 2022 that would surely subject Philadelphia to even more national scrutiny if things didn’t work out. But still....

If Nets GM Sean Marks saw Harris go to OKC for cap space, he might a) worry the Sixers knew something he didn’t about Harden and b) now have even more reason to fear losing Harden for nothing come summer.

If part of the reason Marks didn’t want to trade for Simmons this deadline was because he felt he had Simmons as a summer “backstop” plan, Morey sending Harris to OKC would threaten that plan.

Losing Harden for nothing when you could have had Simmons and perhaps Danny Green and a couple first-round picks (a package that might even get you in the ballpark for Dame or Beal by summer) would really hurt.

But Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report thinks this is more likely a summer scenario than a deadline one.

CJ McCollum latest

At one point earlier this season the entire media world seemed to be willing a CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons trade. Shams Charania reported Daryl Morey asked for McCollum, three firsts, and three swaps at one point. That elicited a hard no. Today, this:

CJ McCollum going to New Orleans, shortly after Norman Powell and Robert Covington went to the Clippers might have some roundabout ramifications for the Sixers.

Firstly, another team with a ton space could conceivably help the Sixers in the summertime in reference to James Harden, should their pursuit drag out that long. Harden could feign interest in simply walking into Portland’s cap space to join up with Damian Lillard, thus forcing Brooklyn to make the unseemly decision to trade Harden to Philadelphia. Portland is more of a realistic threat than the other cap space teams like Detroit or Oklahoma City.

Portland’s cap space could also come into play should the Sixers decide that they, themselves, simply want to try to sign Harden outright, and try to dump Simmons and Harris in PDX for picks and basically no salary in return.

And then, of course, there’s the infinitesimal chance that Portland strikes out with this cap space and Damian Lillard finally demands a trade. We won’t waste more digital ink on that here. Still the blazing fire sale in Portland means Daryl Morey and Elton Brand need to once again make that call.

Bradley Beal

Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington added something exciting on the Beal front. It sounds as if Beal’s agent is actually in town to meet with Wizards’ Brass to discuss his client’s future. There’s a key note about the Wiz accepting the possibility they could lose their star for nothing.

Per Hughes:

“Bartelstein was in town to meet with Wizards management as they get set to navigate a critical juncture for the franchise ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, NBC Sports Washington was told. The timing, of course, is interesting as it pertains to Beal. He has been mulling a max contract offer all season, which he has shown no indication he is ready to sign.

The Wizards are getting closer and closer to the stark reality he could opt out this summer to become an unrestricted free agent. While he can re-sign with them on a five-year deal worth a projected $241 million, roughly $60 million more than other teams can offer, the prospect of losing him for nothing is coming into view.”

Beal, like Damian Lillard has often cited his loyalty. But with the Wiz playing so poorly, the specter of a bleak long-term future (if he stays) might already be haunting him. (Here’s a wild thought we don’t actually think will happen, might Beal’s buddy Dame Lillard try to recruit him to Portland this summer now that they’re opening up some cap space?)

There’s your round up and by the time we publish this, Woj will say something that renders all of it moot. Then we’ll have to do another one.