'Whispers' of a Harden-Sixers trade are back: report


This is going to be a big week in the NBA trade rumor mill complex, and we've got some juice.

With a number of contracts around the league becoming trade-able on Dec. 15, the contenders can start hunting for roster improvements while the pretenders mull over fire sales of valuable assets. The Sixers, of course, have the spiciest trade storyline in the entire NBA in Ben Simmons, and a report late last week from ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski suggested the team might be accelerating towards a deal this week.

But now we have some new intel that would indicate the Sixers' front office has multiple plans in the works.

In a lengthy info dump, NBA insider Jake Fischer reported at Bleacher Report on Tuesday that front office executives around the league are hearing some growing buzz around one James Harden's name in connection with Simmons:

"If a strong enough deal for Simmons never comes Philadelphia's way this season, there have been ongoing whispers about a free-agency sign-and-trade for Simmons that would allow Harden to join forces with Embiid, and rejoin Daryl Morey.     

"For now, Brooklyn stands atop the Eastern Conference, and moving Harden for Simmons makes little sense for Sean Marks’ braintrust, especially as Kyrie Irving remains inactive."

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Harden was rumored as the Sixers' main interest in a Simmons deal last winter as Morey tried to gear up for a title run. Harden eventually went from Houston to Brooklyn instead and Simmons stayed put.


The more surprising idea here is that the Sixers could seriously wait out the whole season - a season in the middle of Joel Embiid's prime - before moving Simmons... although it's a little less so when you remember these Morey comments on 97.5 The Fanatic from nearly two months ago:

"People should buckle in. This is going to go for a long time, because my only job is to help us have the best chance to win the title. Ben Simmons is a difference maker, so if we can get him back, he will help us win the title. If we can trade Ben Simmons for a difference maker, we will do it. I think that’s best for everyone in this situation."

If Morey really lets Simmons sit and stew on the roster for an entire year, you'll at least have to give him credit for being upfront about the situation. He doesn't seem at all afraid to play this thing out.

Now... should Morey make this move?

Harden will be 33 before next season begins. He's currently averaging his fewest points per game since the 2011-12 season, his lowest field goal percentage since his rookie year, and his lowest three point percentage ever.

Is this really the "difference maker" Morey said he wants to move Simmons for?

I liked the idea of the Harden trade last year. He would've clearly given the Sixers a championship-level ceiling, bringing the exact skillset - own-offense creation, elite playmaking, and late-game isolation ability - that the team needed. 

But the way Harden is playing this year, especially under the specter of the NBA's rule changes, it seems like his game isn't trending in the right direction - and he's going to be looking for a big-money contract this coming offseason that could quickly feel like an albatross on the Sixers' salary table.

And that's before you factor in giving up additional assets (draft picks? young guys?) for Harden in a sign-and-trade.

I want the Simmons saga to be over, and I want Embiid to have viable help so he can keep taking actual championship runs in the postseason while he's playing at an MVP level. I just want there to be other options out there for the Sixers. Harden really isn't tipping the scales for me right now.