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NBA Rumors: Joel Embiid Pushed Hard for Bradley Beal Trade Before James Harden Deal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 25, 2022

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts to his basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, in Philadelphia. The 76ers won 117-107. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola

Joel Embiid might have had another star in his sights prior to the Philadelphia 76ers acquiring James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets.

The Ringer's Bill Simmons reported Thursday on his podcast that Embiid "really wanted" Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal "and was pushing really hard for it."

"Part of the reason the trade stuff took so long was because there was the Sixers side that wanted Harden—obviously Daryl [Morey], because Harden is his guy," Simmons said at the 42-minute mark. "But Embiid really wanted Beal because he felt like he was a better fit and was pushing, pushing, pushing."

Simmons also reported that Embiid was angling to land Beal even after the three-time All-Star suffered a wrist injury that eventually required season-ending surgery

In a vacuum, Beal might have been a better target for Philadelphia than Harden.

Harden is having one of his worst seasons in terms of efficiency (41.4 percent overall and 33.2 percent on threes) in the NBA, and his hamstring troubles underscore some of the risk in giving him a massive long-term extension if he opts out of his current deal this summer.

Considering the longstanding questions over his conditioning and his physical style, the 32-year-old may not age gracefully.

Beal has had durability problems of his own. He missed 27 combined games over the previous two years before having yet another season curtailed by injuries.

Still, he's four years younger than Harden and arguably better suited to play alongside another All-Star because he doesn't initiate the offense as frequently as Harden does.

Beal has a 27.6 percent usage rate for his career compared to 30.5 percent for Harden, per Basketball Reference. The latter is on pace to finish eighth all-time in that category.

Whereas Harden's departure from Brooklyn looked inevitable as the deadline neared, there was nothing indicating Washington was ever close to parting with its best player.

NBA insider Marc Stein reported on Feb. 4 the odds of the Wizards actually trading Beal were low unless he formally requested an exit. General manager Tommy Sheppard also reiterated that Washington is hopeful of re-signing him if he opts out in the offseason.

Swinging a trade for Beal would've been easier said than done for Philly before the wrist injury. Once he was ruled out for the year, there was probably no chance the Sixers would still pursue that avenue.

Harden, who's due to debut for Philadelphia on Friday, at least can help the franchise chase a title this season.