Wow. I could have guessed that the Ben Simmons–James Harden trade would have happened, but not this soon. I thought Harden would at least stay with the team throughout the end of the season, and then leave in free agency. But, since this trade has happened, let’s break it down in-depth.
I think the Nets won this trade. The full deal is that the 76ers receive Harden and Paul Millsap, and the Nets got Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks. We’ll discuss Simmons in a minute, but first, let’s look at the other assets the Nets are receiving. Curry is an amazing three-point shooter; I mean, he’s a Curry. That family might be the most skilled family in the entire world when it comes to shooting, with the two brothers and father Dell Curry. The Nets need more shooters to space the floor, and now Curry can play alongside Joe Harris. That means the Nets can have two knockdown three-point shooters on the floor at a time; it’s difficult enough to guard one three-point threat, but two? That will be extremely difficult for any team.
The Nets’ current centers are 36-year old LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Claxton. That was it, and while Aldridge is a solid post player, he’s not very quick, and well past his prime. Claxton is the opposite; an athletic rim-running big, but has yet to hit his prime and doesn’t generate offense in the post. Drummond may not be the player that he was in Detroit alongside Blake Griffin, but he’s still a 6’10”, 280-pound center who’s a monster on the defensive rebounds. Speaking of Griffin, the two former Pistons teammates will be reunited, a story not talked about enough with this trade. That’s pretty cool.
Two first-round picks is also a huge deal, even if they’re towards the end of the first round. If the Nets draft correctly, then they can turn these two picks into trade bait, or two quality players; maybe even netting a future All-Star. However, the biggest part of this trade is Simmons, without a doubt. The 6’11” point guard has refused to play for Philadelphia ever since last year’s playoffs, when he passed up a dunk attempt in Game Seven and Doc Rivers called him out postgame. Because of his fragile ego, Simmons decided he would never play for the organization again, and halfway through the next season, we finally have a trade. Simmons clearly isn’t a player that can win you close games, but he’s still a talented point guard with amazing court vision and transition game. He doesn’t work hard enough on his game, which many take as a bad thing. I agree with this, but here’s the other side of this argument: imagine if he did work on his game. How amazing could Simmons become?
On the Nets, Simmons doesn’t need to take the final shots; nor will anyone want him to. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant don’t do their best work in the paint; Simmons can hide there or in the corners, and let his All-Star teammates go to work. This is a great trade for the Nets, as Simmons will greatly improve the team’s defense, but it’s crazy to think about how this big three met its demise. After spending over a year together, the big three only played 16 games together, for one reason or another. In those games, they were 13-3; imagine if they played 70 games in a season together. This was a better big three then Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson on the Warriors, or LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. This was better then Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, and a better big three then Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. Yet, somehow, they couldn’t just get it to work. All they’ve left us with is two words we can wonder for the rest of time:
The 76ers clearly didn’t make the best deal for Harden, as they overpaid to get him and will have to overpay to keep him with a massive contract extension. However, we can’t blame Daryl Morrey, as it’s not like the Nets would have traded Harden for much less. Harden isn’t the same player he was in 2018 when he won the MVP award, but he’s still James Harden. For the first time in his career, he’s playing with arguably the best center in the entire NBA, Joel Embiid. Harden and Embiid will likely form the deadliest pick and roll duo in the entire NBA, and Harden can either roll to the rim or he can shoot the ball after becoming open.
Yes, Philadelphia gave up many assets to get Harden, but they avoided trading away Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle, two very important pieces I didn’t want the 76ers to give up. Maxey is a great young backup point guard, and Thybulle is one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire NBA. Many people are theorizing that this trade won’t end up working well for Daryl Morrey, as Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN that the 2022 trade deadline would go down as the worst day of Daryl Morrey’s career. But there’s one thing that I think everyone’s neglecting.
Harden and Embiid are on the same team. When we take the best center in the NBA and match him with a top ten shooting guard of all time, I think they’ll find a way to work it out.
Now I just have to wait to be proven wrong. Until then, I plan on watching a 76ers-Nets Conference Finals go to seven games, and being thoroughly entertained throughout the entire ordeal.
What are your thoughts on this trade? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!