The Boston Celtics will play the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night in their first preseason game before the 2020-21 NBA campaign. Could the Sixers roster look much different when these rivals meet in the regular season?
Well, it would if the 76ers pulled off a trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire superstar guard James Harden.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat are among Harden's preferred trade destinations.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported last week that the 76ers are the "most likely destination" for Harden if he's traded. Neither the Rockets nor the Sixers seem to be giving an inch, though.
When you look at the 76ers roster, it would be surprising if they could make a trade for Harden without including one of Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Simmons is an elite point guard and Embiid is an elite center. They are the type of franchise cornerstone players that the Rockets should pursue in any Harden deal.
But according to former Bleacher Report writer Yaron Weitzman, the asking price for Harden in a potential trade with the Sixers isn't limited to just Simmons.
The 76ers are in full win-now mode, but they should still be mindful of the future. Harden might make the Sixers a better title contender right now and next year, but he's 31 years old and is due for another massive contract as early as the summer of 2022 when he can decline his player option to become a free agent.
Simmons is just 24 years old and already a better all-around player than Harden. His durability is a concern, as injuries have limited him at times since being drafted in 2016. When healthy, Simmons is a top 15 talent, though.
Philadelphia has been no stranger to bold moves in recent seasons.
It moved up in the 2017 draft to acquire the No. 1 pick from the Celtics. The 76ers selected Markelle Fultz, who's been a draft bust so far and plays for the Orlando Magic, while the C's took a budding superstar in Jayson Tatum at No. 3 overall. The Sixers also made a risky trade for Tobias Harris during the 2018-19 season and then re-signed him to a max deal that summer. Harris' contract is an awful one now and it will continue to get worse. The Sixers also gave Al Horford a free agent contract worth more than $100 million in 2019, and they had to give up a first-round pick as part of a deal to dump that contract on the Oklahoma City Thunder last month.
The results speak for themselves.
Bold moves made by the 76ers in recent years have not yielded successful outcomes. Even though the decision makers have changed and Daryl Morey is now running the show in Philly as president of basketball operations, these lackluster moves should still be a lesson for the Sixers when it comes to Harden.
He's a great player, but giving up a 24-year-old star in Simmons plus other valuable assets to acquire the Rockers guard just doesn't make a ton of sense.