Instant analysis: Sixers are currently expected to “pursue” James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 22: Houston Rockets Guard James Harden (13) reacts to a call during a NBA game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers on November 22, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers are interested in James Harden after all.

With everyone’s attention firmly locked in on the NFL trade deadline and the impending US Election, NBA insider Shams Charania dropped some pretty wild news for Stadium this morning. He reported that the Philadelphia 76ers, led by newly hired President Daryl Morey, are in fact expected to pursue James Harden.

Once the Morey hire was announced, all sorts of trade speculation and hypotheticals were drummed up regarding some sort of Harden-to-Philly move. A lot of it was written off as pure speculation initially, but now, we have legitimate word that it’s at least something in the back of Morey’s mind.

An avenue to acquiring Harden is not an easy one, for obvious reasons. He’s a former MVP, and arguably the most prolific scorer in all of basketball. Houston has structured their entire organization around him, and even with More now out of the building, it’s hard to imagine them just giving Harden away for free.

Shams made a point to clarify that Houston is definitely not interested in a potential Harden trade at the moment. However, Morey has been known to a fairly aggressive executive in the past, and he’s normally pretty good at getting what he wants.

The other possible way the Sixers could land Harden would be via free agency, but that scenario wouldn’t come until way down the road. Harden is under contract with the Rockets through at least 2022, and he has a $47 million player option for the 2023 season.

Even if Harden opted out and hit the open market a year early, the Sixers are currently in no position to make a serious run at him. They’d had to clear both Al Horford’s and Tobias Harris’ contracts between now and then, which is easier said than done.

Ultimately, unless Morey has secret plans of trading away Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid (I don’t think he does), it’s hard to imagine a world where Harden is rocking a Sixers jersey anytime soon. Morey and the 76ers may very well be interested in acquiring Harden (who wouldn’t be?), but that doesn’t inherently mean a deal is any sorts of imminent.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire