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After days of speculation and rumors, the biggest blockbuster of the NBA trade deadline is now complete. The Brooklyn Nets traded superstar James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, as well as an unprotected 2022 first-round pick (which can be deferred to 2023), and a protected 2027 first-round pick, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
It’s the end of Brooklyn’s ‘big three’ dream that never reached its full potential. A combination of injuries to Harden and Kevin Durant, paired with Kyrie Irving’s part time status as an unvaccinated player has the Nets sitting No. 7 in the Eastern Conference in a year where they were widely projected as the championship favorites in the preseason.
The Nets went all-in on Harden at the start of last season, trading three unprotected first round picks, four first round pick swaps, and giving up Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert to land him from Houston. However, the end result is far from what Harden signed up for. After Harden was injured during the 2021 playoffs as the Nets lost in the second round, he hoped to rebound this season, but Irving’s unvaccinated status and injuries to KD and Harden have added up.
Harden is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and rumors circulated that he wanted to go to Philadelphia where he would reunite with Daryl Morey, who he’s familiar with due to their time together in Houston — while also getting to play with an elite MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, who ensures he won’t need to do everything on the court. The fear of losing Harden and getting nothing in return ultimately prompted the Nets to pull the trigger now, even though there was still belief this team could make a championship run, if its three stars all played together.
Meanwhile the trade rids Philadelphia of its biggest headache. The acrimonious relationship between Simmons and the Sixers soured over the summer, when he refused to report following the team’s infamous collapse against the Hawks in the playoffs last year. The Sixers and Simmons engaged in a very public back-and-forth since then, with Simmons claiming he needed needed to step away for his mental health, while the 76ers questioned his process. Agent Rich Paul said the ongoing feud with Philadelphia was causing Simmons’ mental health to deteriorate, making it increasingly apparent he might never suit up for the team again.
In the end this trade was too good for both teams to pass up. Two players, both wanting out of their respective cities, now get an opportunity to plant new roots. Adding Harden to the Sixers makes Philadelphia an immediate championship contender this season, where they currently find themselves in 5th place, while Simmons offers Brooklyn much-needed defensive versatility and playmaking potential on a team where his lack of shooting talent will be mitigated by Durant and Irving.