A little while back, we reported that the Philadelphia 76ers were still interested in snapping up James Harden ahead of the trade deadline in the NBA.
That interest remains as we head towards the deadline later this week and despite reports from Brooklyn that Harden has reportedly told officials at the club that he wants to stay and win a championship with the Nets.
With the trade deadline closing at 3pm ET on Thursday, both teams now seem to be in a high-stakes game of who will blink first, with the potential of a blockbuster deal still very much on the cards according to some NBA pundits.
With betting sites like UniBet Sportsbook, the Nets have been one of the favorites to win the NBA Championship for the last couple of years and last year’s signing of James Harden from the Rockets was seen as further evidence of their desire to win it all.
However, injuries to Harden and Kevin Durant in particular, plus Kyrie Irving’s situation regarding a lack of Covid-19 vaccination seems to have raised doubts that Harden’s stay in Brooklyn will last too long.
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Simmons Name On The Block
In Philadelphia, the situation is clearer. Ben Simmons has made it clear that he wants out of the 76ers and he has been fined over $20 million already this season for refusing to play for the team.
There’s expectation that both the 76ers and Nets will engage in dialogue on a deal around Ben Simmons for James Harden, multiple sources tell @ShamsCharania.https://t.co/3WBwwAEDcK pic.twitter.com/f8RSMDSb5R
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) February 4, 2022
The Sixers badly want to move Simmons on, but are finding takers for his expensive contract thin on the ground, which is where the trade for Harden comes in.
Harden turned down a $160 million contract extension in the fall of 2021, hoping he may get a bigger $220 million extension this summer.
However, the numbers don’t add up for Harden as he is enduring one of his worst seasons in a decade and he has missed around a quarter of the games for the Nets over the last two years.
The Nets need to do something about this after going 8 games without a win and after Harden’s lacklustre efforts during their road trip last week where against Sacramento he scored just 4 points in 37 minutes and put on a poor effort on defense too.
However, the Nets have to be careful of the sensibilities of star players Irving and Durant, who both lobbied extensively for Harden to join the Nets from the Rockets last year and may well feel that the prospective trio hasn’t had enough time to gel as a unit due to prolonged absences for one or more of the players since Harden signed.
Expensive Deal For 76ers?
Even if the 76ers could move Simmons to Brooklyn as part of a mega-trade for Harden,
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
then there would still have to be sacrifices made at the club in order to facilitate Harden alongside Joel Embiid for the long term.
Tobias Harris is the name being mentioned in many circles as being potentially moved on to free up cap space to sign Harden outright in the summer.
Similarly, the Nets are looking to see if Joe Harris, their injured guard is interesting anybody ahead of the deadline.
Perhaps the more intriguing issue is what could happen for both clubs if the trade does NOT happen.
With the 76ers seeing another stellar season from Joel Embiid, they will know that he needs a huge talent around him to make them genuine contenders for an NBA Championship. Harden would be a perfect foil for that and more importantly, it would resolve the Simmons issue.
However, if the deal does not happen, Simmons and the 76ers could become embroiled in a nasty battle about how much of Simmons salary he is due, while Embiid may grow restless at the lack of strength in depth around him.
Similarly, with the Nets in free-fall, and Irving’s situation no nearer being resolved and KD still out injured, letting the underperforming Harden go, while bringing in a top player like Simmons could be a good move for the Nets too, even if it means admitting the Harden situation didn’t work out as hoped.
You get the feeling that the +400 Unibet are offering on the Nets to win the NBA Championship this season is looking poorer value as time goes on, especially with the Warriors and Suns in such good form in the West.
However, a blockbuster trade before the deadline on Thursday could change all that.