James Harden Trade Rumors: Nets Star Among Players 76ers Eyeing in Ben Simmons Deal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVNovember 19, 2021

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 6: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers plays defense against James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets on February 6, 2021 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers weren't able to land James Harden prior to his trade to the Brooklyn Nets. They may not have given up on acquiring the nine-time All-Star.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported some within the organization "are keen on the idea of keeping Simmons this season with the idea of pursuing of Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade."

Harden has a $47.4 million player option with the Nets in 2022-23.

Next summer is almost certainly the only time Harden might be available because Brooklyn won't trade him as it attempts to win an NBA title this year.

While Kevin Durant has pledged his future to the franchise, Harden and Kyrie Irving have yet to sign an extension. If negotiations with Harden break down, then perhaps a sign-and-trade becomes a realistic possibility for the Sixers or another contender.

However, obvious questions remain.

Things between Simmons and Philadelphia don't appear to be improving.

His agent, Rich Paul, told The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania the saga and the team's tactics are putting a strain on the three-time All-Star's mental health. The Sixers responded that "they have been fully supportive of Simmons’ process and have worked to provide him with all possible resources."

Charania reported Monday the 76ers issued another fine to Simmons because he didn't travel with the team for a six-game road trip.

It would seem this drama is close to reaching a breaking point where one side blinks and the two parties coexist long enough until a worthwhile trade materializes. That's not what's happening.

The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Philadelphia's front office identified around 30 players it would accept in a swap and that "a fair amount of them—let’s say five to 10—could become available in the next year or two." Two years is a long time to wait.

Amick then reported that Simmons and his camp are equally committed, writing, "As it stands, I don’t see a return happening anytime soon—if ever."

The 25-year-old's trade value already started cratering because of his performance in the 2021 playoffs (11.9 points, 8.8 assists, 7.9 rebounds per game). In the event he misses more time—or the entire season as a worst-case scenario—a franchise with championship aspirations will presumably be even less inclined to take him in a trade.

The Nets, for example, would need Simmons to yield immediate returns, and they may have little to no indication he's a vastly different player than the one who struggled so prominently this past summer. 

The Golden State Warriors were at least looking at a transitional year when they executed the ill-fated sign-and-trade to get D'Angelo Russell. The partnership didn't work, and the Warriors pivoted in another direction.

Brooklyn wouldn't have that same kind of buffer.

A lot can change between now and next summer, so the landscape might be more amenable to a Harden-Simmons exchange in a few months. For now, it looks like a pipe dream.