CAMDEN, N.J. — The Ben Simmons saga is over for the Sixers.
The team on Thursday shifted to a new era of sorts by trading the 25-year-old to the Nets and acquiring James Harden and Paul Millsap, a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two draft picks are heading to the Nets along with Simmons
The Athletic's Shams Charania and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski were first on the news.
Here are the full details of the trade:
Harden, 32, is a 10-time All-Star and will easily be Joel Embiid's most accomplished teammate. The Sixers wanted to add a second star during Embiid's prime and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey did so, acquiring a tremendous offensive player. Morey has long appreciated Harden's game and first traded for him with Houston in 2012.
There are clear risks to the deal related to Harden's future. He's been affected by hamstring injuries over the last two seasons with Brooklyn. Harden would be eligible to make as much as $274.6 million from the 2022-23 through 2026-27 seasons if he picks up his player option of approximately $47.4 million for next year.
However, the trade gives the Sixers a strong on-paper chance at winning the Eastern Conference this season if Harden is healthy.
Simmons requested a trade in the offseason, Morey said at Sixers media day. In the ensuing months, Simmons participated in three practices, was suspended a game for conduct detrimental to the team, told the Sixers he was not mentally ready to play, and was the subject of persistent trade speculation. Through it all, he never appeared in a game.
The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons fractured his foot during the final training camp practice of his rookie year and did not play that season. He suited up as a Sixer for the first time during the 2017-18 campaign and earned the Rookie of the Year award. Three consecutive All-Star nominations followed, along with two All-Defensive First Team selections.
The Sixers went to the playoffs four times with Simmons, though his latest postseason left perhaps the largest impression on the NBA — and not for positive reasons. While still effective as a facilitator and open-floor playmaker and still strong defensively on stars Bradley Beal and Trae Young, Simmons’ shooting was problematic. He made 34.2 percent of his playoff free throws. In half-court offense, his impact was highly limited late in games.
Simmons missed the 2020 postseason after suffering a left knee injury in the NBA’s Disney World bubble that required surgery. The Sixers then made dramatic organizational changes following a first-round sweep at the hands of the Celtics without Simmons.
They fired Brett Brown as head coach, hired Doc Rivers and brought in Morey as president of basketball operations. Morey added Danny Green and Seth Curry in his first offseason with the team, trading away Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Though the Sixers claimed the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed and seemingly had a favorable path to the conference finals, they fell short of postseason expectations, losing to the Hawks in the second round.
Simmons’ time in Philadelphia was characterized both by fixation over his jump shot and attempts to contextualize his unique game and many strengths. Rivers faced heavy scrutiny for not endorsing Simmons as a player who could be a point guard on a championship team immediately after the Atlanta series. However, he often insisted in his sessions with reporters that many observers didn’t fully understand how valuable Simmons was.
“The stuff he does for us, the winning things he does, it’s hard to put into numbers,” Rivers said in January of 2020, “and unfortunately, we’re in this numbers generation where everything’s numbers. His brilliance sometimes is missed by a lot of people.”
Simmons is now part of the Sixers' past as the team will instead revolve around the formidable Embiid-Harden duo.
Harden did not exercise his player option Thursday, a source confirmed Friday to NBC Sports Philadelphia, as PhillyVoice's Kyle Neubeck first reported. Harden and the team are both confident in his long-term future with the Sixers, per the source. This piece originally cited a report from The Athletic that Harden opted in Thursday.