The James Harden Trade: My Initial Thoughts

Yesterday was pretty insane. The night prior James Harden basically told the media in his post-game press conference he was done in Houston. Then the news started to drop, Houston said Harden won’t be back with the team, and they were determined to get a deal done that day. The two finalists were said to be the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets.

“We’re just not good enough. Chemistry, talent-wise, everything. It’s clear. I love this city I’ve literally done everything that I can. It’s crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”

James Harden one day before he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets

After all the rumors and dust settled, James Harden was eventually traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for four unprotected first-round picks, four pick swaps, Caris LeVert, Jarret Allen, and more in what became a four-team blockbuster deal.

My Opinion

That was a major haul and a good move for all teams. Houston gets major draft compensation and an expiring Victor Olindipo, who they can resign or allow to walk and create cap space. Pacers land a good young player, Cavs did well landing Allen, and the Nets create a big three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving.

Where does that leave the 76ers? Exactly where they were before. Prior to problems with Covid-19 and contact tracing the team was on a 7-1 tear, a top three defensive team, and an offense that was flowing with ball movement and chemistry. They are still that team, they just have some harder competition now. Much harder competition.

Ultimately, I think it was the right decision not to trade for Harden given what the Rockets wanted in return. I was never sold that a Joel Embiid and James Harden pairing would increase your chances at a championship enough to overpay for James. Joel does not run the high pick and roll well, and both guys are heavy usage and ball dominate players, that have a huge potential to clash considering. This isn’t to say it can’t work, obviously, basketball players aren’t robots, and just because Harden had to play one way in Houston doesn’t mean he will have to on a new team. He definitely has the skill to play in other systems and has eluded to in the past that he would like to play in a system with more movement. However, the price plus the concerns are what, I believe made it the right decision to stay put.

Thoughts going forward

One thing I took away from this saga is that by all accounts Ben Simmons was on the table to be traded. Obviously, when you are dealing with sources and rumors that’s exactly what they are “rumors”, but a lot of times where there is smoke there is fire. It was even reported by ESPN that Ben was happy he wasn’t traded and believes that this team has a chance to win a championship.

Two things that I believe can possibly come out of this situation, Ben is able to be moved if another star becomes available and Ben knows he isn’t untouchable anymore. If Simmons really wants to stay in Philadelphia maybe this is a wake-up call for him to take the next step, and turn it up a notch in his pursuit of bringing a trophy to Philadelphia. This isn’t to downplay what Simmons has already accomplished, but when you want to take that next step to become a Champion, everyone even all-stars and all-NBA players need to up their game. Simmons, while contributing to winning especially when the whole team is healthy, has been underwhelming to start the season.

One more thing that should be noted, it was rumored that along with Ben, Thybulle, and picks the Rockets wanted Tyrese Maxey. It does not seem like the 76ers were willing to include the first-year guard from Kentucky. Seems to show a lot of faith in the rookie.

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Concluding thought

The Nets are most likely going to be an offensive juggernaut and the top of the East is filled with talent. That talent includes the Philadelphia 76ers who are currently second in the East standings. The 76ers team is really good when fully healthy, and more than likely there will be other opportunities to acquire pieces that will look to help the Sixers get over the top. Not going all in for James Harden will allow the team to have some options if guys like Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal become available, but they run the risk of completely missing out if the Wizards, the Bulls, or other teams decide to stay put. They can still tweak around the edges, and I do believe that the offense under Doc and his staff will continue to improve. Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level, Tobias Harris has seemed to return to Doc Rivers’ Tobias, Seth Curry is fitting in just fine, and they have exciting young guys off the bench. I do still believe that this team has a chance to make some serious noise come playoff time, missing out on Harden didn’t change that for me, just makes it a little harder.

The James Harden saga is over, it’s not time for the 76ers to strap in, get focused, and move on with who is here. If they are going to bring a trophy to Philadelphia it won’t be with James Harden, so now it’s time for everyone else to step up.

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