Rumors Continue to Heat up About James Harden and the Sixers

NBA: DEC 27 Nets at Clippers
LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 27: Brooklyn Nets Guard James Harden (13) argues a non foul call as the Los Angeles Clippers face off against the Brooklyn Nets at Arena on Monday, December 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire)

There are just about two weeks until the NBA trade deadline, and the rumors surrounding Ben Simmons and the Sixers continue to swirl. One of the rumors that continues to pick up steam is the connection between the Sixers and James Harden. This should be no surprise, as Harden and Morey have been linked together for a good chunk of their respective careers.

In a recent report by Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, these whispers were increased as it is seemingly becoming a real possibility that Harden could seek a new location this offseason. However, is the chance of James Harden coming to the Sixers worth waiting for this offseason?

The Cap Issues

The first notable problem with a potential Harden deal is the current cap situation. Harden is in the final year of his contract, in which he will be paid $44.3 million this year and had a player option worth $47.4 million next season. The two avenues in which the Nets star could make his way to Philly would be either via signing him in free agency or in a sign-and-trade deal if Harden opts out of the player option. Both of these scenarios are not easy to maneuver as the Sixers’ current cap situation limits their flexibility.

“The 76ers are roughly $20 million over the 2022-23 salary cap with just their fully guaranteed players and filling out the roster, so clearing enough space for Harden would require sending out $61-65 million in salary without taking any back, which is a big undertaking in any offseason, especially this one, where so few teams will wield space. That means a sign-and-trade involving Simmons and/or Harris is the practical option, although the Nets would have to agree.”

– Shams Charania

It is worth noting that James Harden declined a three-year $162 million extension with the Nets prior to the season, stating that he wanted to focus on the current season ahead. Harden will set himself for a larger extension in the future by opting into the player option, and he would be able to make more money by staying with Brooklyn rather than changing teams. If the Sixers are to make a legitimate play at getting Harden, the franchise must do the legwork now to ensure it is possible.

Other Notable Pieces of Article

When talking about the prospect of cutting salary on the Sixers, the obvious name on the chopping block is Tobias Harris. The 29-year-old is still on the books for two more seasons after this year, in which he will carry a cap hit of $37.6 million next year and $39.3 million the following. Danny Green is also a name to watch in a potential trade as he has struggled to get healthy this season after inking a 2 year $20 million extension this offseason in which $10 million is guaranteed.

Shams acknowledged that the Sixers are continuing to have conversations with the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings regarding Tobias Harris, but these deals have often been tied in with a Simmons deal. While this could potentially clear some cap space for the offseason, it would also take away the prospect of trading Simmons in a sign-and-trade this summer.

There also appears to be optimism from Morey’s perspective that Tobias Harris could return to the player he showed to be last season if another player is added to the starting lineup to take some responsibility off of Harris. As Shams put it:

“The 76ers believe in Tyrese Maxey’s long-term ability at point guard, have Harris as their starting power forward and Joel Embiid manning the center position.”

If this is the case, then it seems the Sixers may be more content to sit back and wait for this summer to target a deal.

Is Harden Worth the Wait?

This is the most difficult question. The biggest factor in this entire situation is the level of desire James Harden has to play in Philadelphia alongside Joel Embiid and to be connected with Daryl Morey. The Sixers absolutely have a chance to get Harden, but it will take his motivation to make the move and drive it to happen. While the chatter continues to surround the potential move, it is not something that should be looked at as a concrete option right now.

From an on-court perspective, James Harden would be awesome alongside Joel Embiid. The former MVP and 9-time all-star has career averages of 25 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.6 rebounds and shoots 36.2% from beyond the arc on 7.6 attempts per game. Harden has shown some exceptional growth as a passer at this stage in his career and has averaged over 10 assists in each of the last 4 seasons. Even at 32-years-old, Harden has enough left in the tank to push for a championship, and his effective passing and isolation scoring ability would be a terrific complement to Joel Embiid.

Regardless of the realism of a potential Harden trade, the Sixers would be wise to continue being active at the deadline. The patience shown by Morey is admirable, but the fact of the matter is this current Sixers roster needs work. Morey’s point about the team needing a legitimate star to take the true leap as contenders is plausible, but it is tough to count out any team with Joel Embiid at the moment.

Exploring a lateral move that keeps Harden a possibility this summer while shifting assets to upgrade at the moment should absolutely be on the table. If James Harden is to make his way to the Sixers, it would be terrific, but banking on this occurring does not seem a wise bet at the moment.