James Harden to Philly?

Woj just reported today that James Harden is open to being traded to the 76ers or another contender. But the 76ers were specifically named:

Then that last part “Daryl Morey’s been adamant he wants to keep his two young stars.”

Well, yeah. Of course you’re not trading both Simmons and Embiid for Harden.

If the Rockets can somehow pull that off, it would some of the best general managing in NBA history. But there’s no way Philly would do it. Houston just doesn’t have the leverage. Houston is trying to act like they’re not desperate to move Harden, but they are.

We all know that despite what Houston says, they’re trying to figure out a way to trade Harden. They’re probably communicating that to Harden, too. Probably Houston has told Harden, “Look, the Nets just don’t have enough pieces to give us a good return for you. If we make a trade with them we’ll be willingly getting robbed. We can’t trade you to Brooklyn.” And I doubt Harden wants to screw Houston over on his way out, so he’s showing some flexibility with where he’s okay with being traded. He understands that Philly can offer a much more attractive trade package.

So Harden has probably accepted that he’s not going to Brooklyn and will settle for Philly.

A trade to the 76ers for Harden always made the most sense–way more sense than a trade to the Nets. The Nets just don’t have any star-level players to offer. They could offer Dinwiddie, LeVert and Jarrett Allen plus picks, but normally teams in the NBA do not trade superstars for non-superstars. Three B-level players plus picks do not equal an A/A+ level player like Harden. Four quarters do not equal a dollar when it comes to NBA trade. As an example, three guys who average 10 points a game do not equal one guy who averages 30 points a game. That’s just not how it works. (I’m not saying LeVert and Dinwiddie are 10ppg scorers because I know they’re not, I’m just making up an example.)

Now, I understand the Pelicans took a bunch of young role players plus picks in exchange for AD. That trade happened just last year. But that was a different situation. AD was one year away from free agency and everyone knew he was signing with the Lakers either way. The Pelicans were way more desperate to move him and get something in return for him than Houston currently is with Harden. Harden can’t get out of his contract with Houston until the summer of 2022. It is not a comparable situation to the AD trade.

You can’t trade a superstar for 3 role players. Even 3 very good role players. Because how many of them are you even going to be able to have on the floor at one time?

Superstars in the NBA are far more valuable because there’s so few of them. How many players out there are on Harden’s level? LeBron, Giannis, AD, Curry, KD, Kawhi and… who else?

Obviously in Houston’s predicament they’re not going to get a player of equivalent value for Harden. But they cannot and will not accept a trade where they don’t get someone who’s at least close. The Nets are not trading KD or Kyrie, so that basically takes them out of the running for Harden.

Bill Simmons went over all the possible James Harden trade scenarios and concluded that the only way the Nets can get him is if they get another team involved that can include a good young future star. He pinpointed the Nuggets, who might be able to be convinced to part with Michael Porter Jr., but only if Brooklyn massively overpays for him.

Bill Simmons says the most likely trade scenario for Harden is this:

  • Philly gets: James Harden & PJ Tucker.
  • Houston gets: Ben Simmons, Mike Scott, Terrance Ferguson, 2 first round picks and a pick swap.

Bill Simmons also says he thinks this trade will happen “sooner than we think.” He also says it might not be exactly that trade, but something like it.

Philly would then have an elite perimeter player in Harden and an elite inside player in Joel Embiid. It’s a much better fit than Simmons/Embiid because Simmons was not even close to a perimeter threat. Simmons’ offensive game relied on getting to the rim, which would often conflict with Embiid’s offensive game.

Plus Philly will also have Tobias Harris, Danny Green and Seth Curry. I’m assuming they’d go Harden at point, Curry at 2, Green at 3, Harris at 4 and Embiid at 5. Really only Curry and Embiid would be playing their natural positions, although Harden is more than capable of running the point. He’s a much better distributor than people give him credit for.

Danny Green is a bit under-sized for a small forward, but that’s probably where he’ll play. Tobias Harris is just big enough to play the 4 spot, but he’s better suited as a 3.

But Philly is a Daryl Morey team now. He doesn’t care about positions. All he wants is shooting and perimeter talent.

A Philly starting lineup of Harden, Curry, Green, Harris and Embiid would feature a ton of shooting ability and open the floor up massively for Embiid.

Will this trade actually happen? I don’t know. Simmons clearly isn’t on the same level as Embiid. But he’s good, he’s young (24) and he would be a great building block for the future. The pairing with Embiid didn’t really work in Philly, but Houston could definitely build around him.

But here’s the biggest problem: Houston just traded for John Wall. It makes no sense to have both Simmons and Wall on your team. They both play the point. Unless they want to make John Wall into a slashing 2-guard, there’s no way this would work. I doubt they’ll be able to move John Wall in a trade, too, unless they’re willing to get 40 cents on the dollar for him.

Do you make Ben Simmons a 3 or a 4? He can play all 5 positions on the floor given that he’s 6′ 10″, but he’s best suited to being a point guard. I just don’t see how it would work long-term with Simmons and John Wall on the same team. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not a natural fit.

I don’t see Houston having any interest in that pairing.

Bill Simmons made his trade video after the John Wall trade, and he even talked about it a bit throughout the video. I don’t know why he assumes Houston would have any interest at all in pairing John Wall and Ben Simmons, but in my view that is the biggest obstacle to a Harden-Simmons trade.

I really don’t know what’s going to happen with Harden. The way I see this playing out is that the Rockets don’t get the offers they’re looking for, and they wait it out. But the longer they wait, the more leverage James Harden gets.

Maybe Toronto gets involved and sends Siakam and some other assets to Houston for Harden. Oddshark gives Toronto slightly better odds than Houston to acquire Harden, although they have the Nets far above both teams. But I think I’d rather have Ben Simmons than Siakam, even with John Wall on the team. The upside with Simmons is higher, even if Siakam would fit better with Wall.

There’s just many ideal scenarios out there for Houston. They may just have to bite the bullet and make a bad trade here.

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