NBA free agency is already off the rails, and we still have nine days until teams and players can start officially negotiating.
On Wednesday, rumors trickled and then exploded out of Houston about discontent, building to an explosive report Wednesday night that Russell Westbrook wants to leave the Rockets.
Where will Westbrook end up? And what does it mean for the Sixers' potential pursuit of James Harden?
There are so many variables at play, between Westbrook's spicy personality, the Rockets' willingness to blow it all up, and the Sixers' desire to keep Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together in the face of... well, trading for James Harden.
If Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey seizes on the Rockets' apparent explosion, a Harden trade just might be the answer. And, of course, basketball fans spent all Wednesday dreaming up ways to get Harden to Philly.
Here are some particularly wild proposals that caught my eye:
A Westbrook reunion in Oklahoma City, as enticing as it is emotionally, is pretty unlikely. The Thunder are trying to eliminate any and all costs with the goal of a super rebuild. The idea of Chris Paul returning to Houston is equally unlikely - that wasn't a pretty split - though getting rid of Al Horford's contract would be a win for the Sixers. Also, Josh Richardson feels very moveable this offseason.
This one plays on some recent rumblings about the Spurs, so I like it. Aldridge winding up on a new team would be intriguing. The return here for the Spurs would likely be some package of picks between the three teams, built around the Warriors' No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft. The Rockets wouldn't be very good next year, but they might not have much of a choice right now.
Not giving up this year's first round pick is a win for the Sixers, but otherwise this proposal feels very much slanted towards the Rockets. It's understandable: whoever acquires Harden is getting a prime Top 3 scoring threat in the league under contract for the next three seasons. But Harden is 31 and will be 34 when the contract is up, while Simmons is 24 and Thybulle is 23. I'd probably make this deal, but it wouldn't be easy.
I really don't hate this trade for any of the three teams involved. The Sixers spending a No. 21 overall pick and Ben Simmons to acquire James Harden is the right move. The Rockets getting a top-two pick in this year's draft plus another first-rounder, along with 25-year-old (?!) Andrew Wiggins and 21-year-old Jordan Poole, is solid return when blowing your team up. And Simmons in Golden State just makes too much sense.
This trade is so involved! Al Horford heading to Houston doesn't help their rebuild, but it's not impossible if they're getting the No. 1 overall pick. The Hawks acquire the No. 17 pick and a young intriguing project in Culver to help the rebuild going. Simmons in Minnesota is... a curious fit alongside D'Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns, one I don't love but also don't hate for some reason. And Harden in Philly is, of course, the whole point of this post.