If Not James Harden Now, Then Who and When?

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 Crypto.com Arena on Monday, December 27, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire)

For Philadelphia 76ers fans, the Ben Simmons saga has gone on way past what they’d have liked and expected. With the February 10th NBA trade deadline quickly approaching, the rumors have been all over the place.

After last season and the rumors that Sixers President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey, had tried to move Simmons to the Rockets for Harden, the rumors haven’t stopped about if and/or when the team would make a push for Harden. That time appears to be now, at the trade deadline.

Multiple reports have the Sixers and Nets engaging in at least some sort of conversation around the teams swapping the two stars. I’m sure that fans of both teams are wondering why, on both ends.

Simmons and Harden are arguably the two biggest names at the deadline, and the history between Daryl Morey and Harden would tend to have people believe that there’s some chance to land Harden prior to the trade deadline. He seems to be their best option, at least at this moment.

But, if the Harden deal isn’t to be made, then who exactly could the Sixers move Simmons for? It wouldn’t make sense to keep Simmons in the Eastern Conference, where they’d wind up playing him multiple times over the next few years. The obvious choice would be to send him to the Western Conference.

The Houston Rockets have Eric Gordon available but aren’t keen on taking back salary in any trade for Gordon. They’re looking for picks, so that would eliminate the Simmons option. As well, John Wall has been sitting around the bench all season, and his $40+ million salary isn’t something that any team would really want to take on, given his injury history, so the Rockets don’t seem like a destination.

In Portland, the Trailblazers have Damian Lillard still recovering from abdominal surgery, and he’s not looking like he’s coming back for at least six to eight more weeks. On top of that, there’ve been reports that he may require another abdominal surgery in the future. CJ McCollum was out with a collapsed lung earlier in the season and has recently returned to action. But the Knicks and Pelicans are reported to be looking at adding him to their lineup. For all intents and purposes, it would seem that Portland is out as well.

The Sacramento Kings, who seem to have been mentioned more than any other team throughout the first part of the year, in regards to Simmons, are probably the ablest to make a deal work with Philadelphia. Although, reports last week were that the Kings had backed out of any sort of potential deal with the Sixers as the team, reportedly, wanted the Kings to also take on the contract of Tobias Harris.

So, could the Kings and Sixers work something out? Why not?

The latest reports have the Kings committed to building around Tyrese Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox. That leaves two names that had been connected with the Sixers early in the season, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes. The salaries would be close if the Sixers wanted to move Simmons. They could include Danny Green, who only has next season on his current deal and hope to get someone like Robert Woodard added into the mix in return. The Sixers could definitely use Hield and Barnes, it would improve their overall team, and they could look to move Tobias Harris if that’s possible. The best case would be for the Kings and Sixers to include a third team, so they’re able to move Harris.

There just don’t seem to be any real “superstars” available, as Daryl Morey has stated that he’d look for in return for Simmons but, there are a few pieces out there that would help the team and Joel Embiid, who’s having another MVP type year, compete for what seems to be a wide-open race for the NBA title this year.