The 2022 NBA trade deadline is almost here, and there are sure to be plenty more Sixers updates in store. Specifically, the potential of a Ben Simmons-James Harden trade.
Well, this morning we received some new information on how things are progressing from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who reported that Philly and Brooklyn have “engaged” in trade talks:
Multiple sources said the Nets and Sixers engaged in trade discussions Tuesday and bickered over pieces to add to a potential deal.
Of course, the main messaging we’ve received in recent reports is that the Nets and Sixers have still seemed far apart on making a trade before the deadline. However, the wording here is intriguing. After recent reports confirming that Nets GM Sean Marks had quickly shot down the Sixers’ interest in Harden earlier this season and that no real direct discussions had developed between both teams, being “engaged” in talks would be a clear step forward.
Furthermore, bickering “over pieces to add” sounds more like discussing the smaller parts of a deal — such as the role players/salaries and any extra draft picks — rather than the foundational pieces. I.e., if this is actually the case, maybe the Nets and Sixers are both interested in the main framework of a Harden-Simmons trade. We know the Sixers have been pursuing this, but the Nets engaging in real discussions and shifting their concern to what they receive in addition to Simmons would be a real development.
Update: After this article was published, Brian Windhorst came in with even stronger wording on ESPN’s Get Up, saying that he suspects a Harden-Simmons trade gets done. We’re in the “deal zone” now, folks.
“We are in the deal zone between Harden and Simmons,” per @WindhorstESPN on @GetUpESPN— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) February 9, 2022
“I suspect they are gonna get it done. I can’t tell you they are gonna get it done. But it’s trending in that direction.”
Pompey added that members of the Nets are split on whether they should keep Harden past the deadline:
Publicly, the Nets say they want to keep Harden for the rest of the season. However, sources say they’re split behind closed door. Some want to get rid of him now, thinking that he’s quit on the team and is destroying the chemistry. Harden has publicly told his teammates, coaches and team personnel that he wants to stay in Brooklyn. However, word keeps leaking out that he wants to play for the Sixers.
This is similar to what we’ve heard in other reports from the last few days, noting that some members of the Nets organization are interested in moving on from Harden now, and some have even openly expressed their interest in trading Harden for Simmons. And while word that Harden wants to play in Philly could mostly be coming from optimistic members of the Sixers organization (we’ve already heard that Michael Rubin and Daryl Morey believe Harden is interested in joining the Sixers), it would be an important development if it’s coming from those close to Harden. We’ll find out soon enough.
Pompey also noted that the Sixers have spoken with the Thunder about a potential Tobias Harris trade:
Sources also confirmed that the Sixers have had conversations with the Oklahoma City Thunder about Tobias Harris. A person close to the Sixers downplayed the discussions, saying the Thunder are just one of several teams with available cap space that have inquired about taking in salary in exchange for draft picks. The person says Harris has nothing to be concerned about.
On Tuesday night, Kyle Neubeck of the Philly Voice also reported on the possibility of moving Harris. Seeing as Harris is set to make $38.42 million next season, moving him would go a long way to clearing the cap space required to sign Harden in free agency this summer, if Harden decides to opt out of his 2022-23 player option and leave Brooklyn. Neubeck reported that the Sixers have “two potential suitors with cap space lined up who they could move Harris to if they need to clear the decks.”
Such a move could wait until the offseason. Even with his hefty contract, Harris is still a valuable contributor right now (he’s been in far better form over the last month or so). His salary also wouldn’t need to be cleared until the summer, if signing Harden outright in free agency is the route the Sixers need to take.
Of course, trade rumblings about moving Harris could be a scare tactic from the Sixers to worry the Nets into thinking they’ll be ready to sign Harden outright this summer — ideally encouraging the Nets to ask for a bit less in a pre-deadline deal, rather than lose Harden for nothing in a few months. But whether the Sixers really do have Harris suitors lined up or this is simply an effort to add pressure on Brooklyn, it still seems noteworthy as Philly furthers its pursuit of landing Harden in one way or another.
The deadline may only be just over a day away, but plenty can change between now and Thursday’s 3pm ET buzzer. As teams continue discussions or simply leak new information as they angle for leverage, we’ll keep you updated with the inevitable wave of trade buzz that’s coming up over the next two days.