PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Daryl Morey has already made two big trades since taking over basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers in late October. Could another be on the horizon? Reports indicate that Houston Rockets guard James Harden is “open to” a trade that would send him to the Sixers.
Reporting w/ @ESPN_MacMahon: James Harden has recently indicated to Houston he'd be open to a trade to Philadelphia or other contenders. So far, no substantive talks with Sixers. Daryl Morey's been adamant he wants to keep his two young stars. https://t.co/9ZFKB8MSGx
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 8, 2020
The speculation about the potential of Morey trading for Harden to bring him to Philadelphia basically began the moment that Morey took over. But, this is the first indication we’ve seen of reporting to the effect that Harden would be interested in such a deal.
In order to make a deal come to fruition, it’s likely that the Sixers would have to give up one of their young stars Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Morey, for his part, has said that he doesn’t want to trade either player telling reporters last month “Joel and Ben will be here for a long time.” Wojnarowski reports that the two sides have not had “substantive talks” to this point. But, as an exercise, what would it take to bring the 31-year-old Harden to Philly?
Let’s start first with the contracts. Harden is owed $41 million this season. With both Philly and Houston already over the salary cap, any trade would need to send nearly matching salary to Houston in order to make it work.
The Sixers have no contract that would match that exactly, the three closest would be Tobias Harris ($34 million), Ben Simmons ($30 million) and Joel Embiid ($29 million). So, one of those three has to be included. Harris, while a solid player, is unlikely to intrigue Houston in any serious way. That leaves Simmons and Embiid. Of the two, it’s been speculated that Simmons would be the more desired option in any Harden trade.
With Simmons, at least one other contract would have to go out to make the salaries work. The Sixers could include someone like Mike Scott or the recently acquired Terrance Ferguson. But the contracts are unlikely to be the only thing headed back to Houston. The Rockets, having seen the going prices for players like Jrue Holiday (3 future first round picks), Chris Paul (1 first, several players) among others, would seem likely to ask multiple picks for Harden. He is after all, a former MVP and three-time scoring champion.
The Sixers do have plenty of future firsts to deal from as they have mostly kept their own picks in deals. But, the question is, do you give up multiple future first for a player who has just two years remaining on his deal and is entering his age 31 season? Harden has a player option in his contract for the 2022-23 season that he seems likely to decline in order to get one more crack at free agency. Simmons, on the other hand, is just entering the first year of his five-year contract extension signed prior to last season.
While the Sixers have yet to make it past the second round with Simmons and Embiid, Harden has only been past the second round of the playoffs three times in his career. Twice in Oklahoma City and again in Houston in 2017-18 when the Rockets lost in seven games to the Golden State Warriors.
So, the question is put to you Sixers fans, is it worth giving up Simmons to get Harden?