The Sixers, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic, are expected to pursue James Harden.
That sounds, on the surface, like a potentially massive development. There are some very important caveats, though. Charania notes the Sixers won’t be the only team who expresses interest in Harden, and he says, “As of right now, it’s an emphatic no from the Rockets’ side. It’s really a non-starter for that organization.”
Of course, new Sixers executive vice president of basketball operations Daryl Morey acquired Harden from the Thunder in 2012 and tried to build a Rockets team that best played to his strengths. Harden, who’s led the NBA in scoring the past three seasons, is under contract for the next two years and then has a player option for approximately $47.4 million for the 2022-23 season.
Though Morey is certainly not averse to exploring trades for superstars, he emphasized at his introductory press conference Monday that he will not rush into deals.
“One thing I think where organizations make a mistake is they try to make sure the roster is perfect on Game 1,” he said. “The players who are going to thrive under (head coach Doc Rivers) and how Doc utilizes them is going to teach (GM Elton Brand) and I a lot about how to best fit the players around them. So if there’s a great opportunity, obviously we’re going to do it early.
“We’ve got some important windows coming up with the draft and free agency, and also a trade window in there before whenever we play our first game. The thing is you want to do great moves when they’re available, but often the best move is not a move that’s done right away. We want to increase our understanding before we start to make these moves.”
Last week, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon shared essentially the same sentiment to Charania’s reporting about Houston’s attitude toward potentially trading Harden.
The sense that everything could be on the table with Morey is justified, but his reported interest does not necessarily equate to a Harden trade being likely at this stage.
For what it’s worth, Morey spoke very highly of Joel Embiid at his introductory press conference, said he “absolutely” thinks Embiid and Ben Simmons can work together, and pointed to Simmons’ season-ending left knee injury as a key reason why the Sixers were swept by the Celtics in the first round. He will probe outside options, including elite talent he knows well like Harden, but seems genuinely excited about the Sixers’ in-house stars.