Philadelphia was long considered to be a front-runner in the Harden sweepstakes, and Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Wednesday that president of basketball operations Daryl Morey was in discussion with the Houston Rockets on a trade centered around Simmons and rookie Tyrese Maxey.
Per Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Simmons is "fine" following the near-transaction, but it remains to be seen how it could impact his relationship with 76ers personnel moving forward. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated added Simmons was "pretty ecstatic" to not be dealt to Houston, as he believes the Sixers are capable of winning a championship.
Harden was dealt to the Nets in a four-team deal. Per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Rockets landed Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo as well as Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, three unprotected Brooklyn Nets picks, four unprotected Nets swaps and a 2022 Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick (from the Cleveland Cavaliers).
In the same deal, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince are headed to the Cavaliers, while the Indiana Pacers picked up Caris LeVert and a second-round pick.
After the trade was reportedly completed, Charania confirmed that Simmons had been discussed in Sixers talks, but the Rockets ultimately felt the Nets made a better offer:
Simmons' name appeared in trade talks surrounding Harden before, but Morey discredited rumors that the team was open to parting with him back in December.
"We are not trading Ben Simmons," Morey told Charania. "He is an important part of our future."
Simmons, an All-NBA selection and two-time All-Star, is half of one of the league's most prominent centerpieces alongside Joel Embiid. Through 10 games with Philadelphia this season, the 24-year-old has averaged 12.6 points, 8.5 rebound and 7.5 assists.