While we are all excited for what is to become of the Philadelphia 76ers combination of Joel Embiid and James Harden for the 2022-2023 season, there's wonderment in thinking about what the Sixers could have been with that same duo in the 2020-21 NBA season.
James Harden was a member of the Houston Rockets at the time — desperate to get out of a colossal franchise tailspin. So the rumor mill began to swirl when Harden reported to Rockets training camp that year a little heavier than before.
Harden's commitment to the Rockets faltered despite everything General Manager Daryl Morey did to put a winner around him. In years past, Harden and Morey's Rockets were joined by Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela, and a cast of role players that took the Golden State Warriors to a seventh game in the Western Conference Finals in 2018.
Paul was eventually for Russell Westbrook, and we know the rest. The new duo never quite jelled (or made sense), and Harden wanted to be elsewhere. There were two choices:
The Brooklyn Nets (whom he ended up with) and the Philadelphia 76ers. Both teams, as constituted, gave Harden the chance to get the ring he has chased for years. Harden ultimately chose to join forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, but what if he went with option B?
What if Tillman Fertitta didn't have an (alleged) grudge against Daryl Morey and traded Harden to Philadelphia for a package highlighted by Ben Simmons? Does the Sixers' season (the one that ended with an absolutely maddening seven-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks) differ in any way?
How does not having Harden shape what the Nets did at the trade deadline? Your hosts Adio Royster and David Early travel to a multiverse dated January 14th, 2021 and ask: What if James Harden was a member of the Sixers two seasons ago?
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