The rumors surrounding James Harden and the Sixers reached a fever pitch over the weekend when reports emerged of Daryl Morey putting Ben Simmons on the trade table, before Morey himself publicly declared the team would not be trading Simmons.
(Whether they still will remains to be seen.)
We're just one day away from the beginning of the NBA regular season and Harden remains on the Rockets, and after Monday the market seems to be shrinking at least somewhat for the enigmatic superstar.
The Miami Heat have reportedly pulled out of the Harden sweepstakes, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who has been plugged-in to the Miami organization since LeBron James made South Beach his basketball home a decade ago.
Here's what Windhorst is reporting:
"After having cursory talks about a James Harden trade, the Miami Heat have moved on and will not pursue the Houston Rockets' star, sources told ESPN.
"The Rockets have also been looking for significant draft assets in Harden deals and the Heat currently can offer only their 2027 first-round pick in a trade. For those reasons, discussions never got very far on the Rockets' side, sources said."
That makes sense, and seems to jibe with a previous report that the Rockets were asking for three (!) first-round picks from the Sixers in addition to Ben Simmons in a Harden trade.
As far as what it means for the Sixers' continued pursuit of Harden, here's the Sixers' stockpile of draft picks over the next five years:
- 2021 1st
- 2021 2nd (Knicks)
- 2022 1st
- 2023 1st
- 2023 2nd
- 2023 2nd (Atlanta, Charlotte, or Brooklyn)
- 2024 1st
- 2024 2nd
- 2024 2nd (Miami)
- 2025 2nd
Since teams are unable to trade first-round picks in consecutive seasons, if the Rockets wanted three first-round picks from the Sixers, they would be looking at first-rounders in 2021, 2023, and 2026. I don't see Daryl Morey giving up a player like Simmons *and* those picks for Harden.
If Houston does indeed want draft picks, here's a more palatable hypothetical package for Sixers fans:
- HOU receives: Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, 2021 1st, 2023 1st, 2023 2nd (Atlanta, Charlotte, or Brooklyn)
- PHI receives: James Harden, PJ Tucker, 2021 2nd (HOU)
That's where I'd like to be: Houston gets its draft capital, including a likely favorable second-round pick in 2023, while the Sixers get two players and a pick back. Then again, I'm not Daryl Morey. We'll see if the Sixers pull the trigger or decide to ride out 2020-21 with their current roster.
The Sixers open the regular season on Dec. 23 against the Wizards. You can watch and stream the game on NBC Sports Philadelphia and the MyTeams app.