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Nets trading James Harden to 76ers for Ben Simmons

James Harden and Ben Simmons in Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 6: Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers plays defense against James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets on February 6, 2021 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Just over a year ago, the Nets outbid the 76ers for an unhappy James Harden.

That prompted even more anguish.

In part because he resents being offered to the Rockets for Harden after being told he wouldn’t be – and several other reasons – Ben Simmons requested a trade from Philadelphia and has sat out all season. Harden, who initially chose the Nets over the 76ers, has become frustrated with Brooklyn and pushed for a trade before today’s deadline.

So, the Nets (who are in championship contention with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) and 76ers (who are getting an MVP-caliber season from Joel Embiid and could compete themselves) will swap headaches for, they hope, fresh stars.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The most important aspect of this trade: Philadelphia, not Brooklyn, gets Harden for the 2022 playoffs. This deal could swing a championship. Whatever complications he brings, Harden is still a star who significantly raises his team’s ceiling.

That’s why there was so much hype around Brooklyn acquiring him a year ago. But the Nets’ star trio now breaks up before making much of a dent.

Due to health issues (including Irving’s vaccination status), Durant, Harden and Irving played just 364 minutes together across last season, last year’s playoffs and this season. For perspective, Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon and Monte Morris played more together in the last month alone.

What could have been.

Brooklyn went 13-3 (regular season and playoffs) when Durant, Harden and Irving all played and outscored opponents by nearly 15 points per 48 minutes.

Now, Embiid and Harden are the new star alliance du jour.

Harden and Embiid might not be a perfect fit. Harden has worked best with a rolling big man, and Embiid likes to pop and operate in the post. Harden hasn’t applied himself much off the ball, which will be an issue . Harden’s defensive deficiencies have been most masked when switching. Embiid has excelled in drop coverage (though could switch some).

But Embiid and Harden should fit together far better than Embiid and Simmons did. Harden’s perimeter shooting goes such a long way. Embiid can cover for a guard’s weak defense. And unlike Simmons, Harden will actually play for the 76ers the rest of this season.

Vaccinated, Simmons could hypothetically help the Nets. His passing and defense could nicely complement Durant and Irving. But Simmons crumbled in last year’s playoffs and has not played this season, citing mental unreadiness. Some of Simmons’ issues were clearly linked to Philadelphia and his trade request. But he’s joining a big market team in the thick of championship contention. There will be pressure.

Simmons’ limitations are why the 76ers had to give up so much – Seth Curry and two first-round picks, including one with a deferment option – to get someone seven years older than Simmons. Philadelphia’s costs probably won’t stop there.

In August, the 76ers can sign Harden to a four-year, $222,813,239 contract extension. That’s a terrifying outlay for a 32-year-old who has already shown signs of decline.

But not maximizing Embiid’s prime would have been troublesome, too.

Though Harden and Simmons are the principles, the other elements of the deal could factor.

Seth Curry is an awesome shooter who’ll get good looks around Durant, Simmons (once he plays) and Irving (in road games). That role was supposed to go to Joe Harris, who’s injured.

Andre Drummond gives the undersized Brooklyn a bigger option that could come in handy against Embiid (though Embiid has dominated Drummond over the years). Wouldn’t it be amazing if these teams met in the playoffs after all the drama?

Two first-rounders replenish the Nets after they gave up a haul of picks for Harden in the first place. Perhaps, Brooklyn flips those picks to upgrade further. (Teams can’t yet trade 2029 picks, so the protections aren’t accurate as reported).

Paul Millsap gets his desired trade, though the 37-year-old might just be washed up.