We’ve been hearing about a potential Ben Simmons and James Harden swap between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets for weeks now. We’ve also heard NBA reporters and insiders go on the record with statements to the contrary. Generally speaking, it’s been easier to lean towards the latter, simply because the idea of the two superstars swapping rival Eastern Conference jerseys seemed so incredibly unlikely, especially midseason.
But on this morning’s installment of Get Up!, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said, in no uncertain terms, that a deal is trending towards happening:
“We're in the deal zone between Harden and Simmons. I suspect they are gonna get it done. I'm not gonna tell you they're gonna get it done but it’s trending in that direction." pic.twitter.com/n55jOoIf7E
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 9, 2022
According to Windhorst, the 76ers and Nets are “absolutely engaged in trade discussions” despite some disputing that fact and that there is “definite motivation from both sides to make this fall into place.”
So what’s holding it back for now? Well, according to Windhorst, some other moves that need to get done first: “the Sixers were out there yesterday having trade negotiations with other teams looking to clear roster spots, looking to move other players on their roster, including Tobias Harris in what looks like ancillary moves to support a James Harden arrival.”
But that’s not all. Windhorst also said that the asking price that Brooklyn has laid out for James Harden is still a significant hurdle to clear. It reportedly includes “Ben Simmons and two or three other pieces including draft picks and players on the 76ers roster.” And when you remember what the Nets gave up to get James Harden*, it makes sense that their asking price would be pretty rich.
*When Brooklyn acquired Harden from the Houston Rockets in January of last season, the Nets sent a massive package to Houston, including Jarret Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, three first-round picks (2022, 2024, and 2026), and four first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027).
With a player option for the 2022-23 season, Harden will likely become a free agent this summer, which is likely the ultimate motivation for Brooklyn in this deal. They won’t want to watch Harden walk for nothing after the massive investment they made in him just one year ago.
Philly’s motivation is the desire to extract something of value in exchange for Ben Simmons, who hasn’t played a single game for them this season. With Joel Embiid having an other-worldly campaign right now, the 76ers see Harden as the final piece to a legitimate run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy this summer.
So, while a swap of massive stars like this at the in-season trade deadline seems too wonky to be true, there’s plenty of reason for both sides to want to get this deal done before tomorrow afternoon.
This is a story that has legs but is still plenty fluid. We’ll keep tabs on the happenings and break it down for you between now and tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline.