The NBA is just over a month away, and James Harden is still a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. There has been little movement on the trade front as late; however, all that could end in an instant. Until then, Sixers fans are left wondering what could be, specifically as it pertains to a potential return for the 10-time All-Star.
A recent mock trade from Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report attempts to answer that question, as it has the Sixers sending Harden back to his previous team, the Brooklyn Nets.
The proposed Sixers/Nets trade
Philadelphia Receives: Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Cam Thomas, 2025 FRP (Phoenix)
Brooklyn Receives: James Harden
Why Philadelphia does the deal:
One could easily call this a “best-case scenario” compared to the other rumored offers that have come forward – as few and far between as those may be. In Spencer Dinwiddie, the Sixers would land a combo guard with size who could thrive in either a starting or a bench role. He would instantly become one of the top passers on the team and would provide a legitimate scoring punch as well.
In addition to Dinwiddie, this deal has defensive forward Dorian Finney-Smith heading to Philadelphia as well, which would provide the Sixers with a strong starting option alongside Joel Embiid. Though often miscategorized as a “three-and-D player,” DFS is a capable shooter, but he earns his money on the defensive side of the ball. In a similar – albeit more active – role to current Sixer PJ Tucker, Dorian Finney Smith would provide the Sixers with a major defensive boost and would be able to take the lead against such forwards as Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, and more as the Sixer make their playoff push.
Finally, there are the additions of Cam Thomas and a 2025 first-round pick to the deal. Thomas, a young gunner of a guard, could provide the Sixers with an offensive boost, sure; his long-term impact, however, would likely come in a secondary deal after he becomes eligible to be aggregated alongside another player(s) in a potential deal. That also is the case for the first-round pick, which comes from the Phoenix Suns. The Sixers would be able to assemble a package using Thomas, picks, and other assets to potentially land another impact player at the deadline. For Philadelphia, this deal is quite promising.
Why Brooklyn does the deal:
What are the Brooklyn Nets trying to accomplish? Obviously, the answer for every team is winning a championship, but what stage of the process do the Nets believe they’re in? With rising star Mikal Bridges leading a team with such talented players as Cam Johnson, Nic Claxton, and the enigma that is Ben Simmons — who believes he can reestablish himself as an All-Star, the Nets may only be a few moves from contention. Adding a player who averaged 21.0 points and 10.7 assists while playing out of his preferred role could be the spark they need.
With that said, one cannot simply ignore the history of James Harden, specifically his history with the Brooklyn Nets organization. It is not known — and would be fair to question, whether Harden or the Nets have any interest in a reunion, but could also be argued that they are each other’s best chance to accomplish their goals. For Harden, leading a contender as a top option. For the Nets, making a tangible step closer to becoming a title contender.
Would the Brooklyn Nets make this deal? It’s not difficult to argue it wouldn’t be in their best interest as the market for Harden already appears narrow. If there is some feeling of desperation or opportunity, one can never say never, but that would be highly unlikely, however, until midseason at the very least. There’s also the question of whether or not Daryl Morey and the Sixers would agree to the deal.
The only report regarding the situation is that the Sixers president is looking for a star player or a return that would allow Philadelphia to acquire a star. This is not exactly that, although the potential to then flip Cam Thomas, draft picks, and other assets is intriguing. The better question is if this is the type of deal the Sixers SHOULD consider, to which the answer is a resounding yes.
While the possibility of this all breaking the Sixers’ way is not zero, it’s not much higher either. At some point, one or more sides must compromise. If landing a starter, a fringe starter, a young player, and a draft pick is compromising in a sense, but the deal in question would undoubtedly bring the Sixers closer to a title, though it’s fair to question if it brings them close enough.