Enough that they have flipped their “we’re not trading Harden” position to suddenly being open to the idea — specifically a Harden for Ben Simmons trade. That according to reporting from Shams Charania of The Athletic.
With the NBA trade deadline just days away on Feb. 10, the 76ers are expected to pursue Harden in the coming days and the Nets are believed to be open to discussing a deal, sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic. There’s expectation that both the 76ers and Nets will engage in dialogue on a deal around Simmons for Harden, multiple sources say, with Philadelphia holding a chest of role players in Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle that could sweeten a potential package. Still, there’s no urgency for Nets officials, who have had the steadfast belief that the current core, as is, has the means necessary for a championship.
A few thoughts:
• This is still more likely a deal that gets done in the offseason, maybe around the draft, than at the deadline. Charania repeatedly says there is no urgency on the Nets’ part. But at least now the door is ajar, something it was not recently. Never say never in this league.
• Philly has to put another player in the trade to make the numbers work under the salary cap rules. The Nets will want to get deeper, more athletic and younger with this trade, so they will likely demand Maxey or Thubylle at the very least (both work financially). Either of those players, particularly Thybulle with his defense, would have a key role in Brooklyn.
• No way Brooklyn even considers trading Harden now unless the fear of losing him this offseason is real. Or at least real enough to them that they have to reconsider their options.
• Here’s a reminder that other teams — Minnesota, Atlanta and others — also would be in any Simmons sweepstakes.
• Simmons has gotten vaccinated and could play home games in Brooklyn.
• Simmons struggled with the pressure of playoff basketball in Philadelphia and now he may be headed to… New York?
• This makes Philly better. Simmons has given them nothing this season, Harden is playing like an All-Star.
• Getting Harden does not automatically make the 76ers even an Eastern Conference Finals lock. Harden has put up numbers this season — 22.5 points, 10.2 assists, 8 rebounds a game — but his explosiveness and ability to get to the rim have not been the same. His advanced stats and efficiency numbers are down across the board (a 57.6 true shooing percentage, a number over 61% the previous seven years; his +3.1 estimated plus/minus was at least +8.6 his last three years in Houston).
• Would a change of venue and being the primary ball handler playing with Joel Embiid reverse the trends and numbers from that previous paragraph?
• Does this put more pressure on Bradley Beal if he had been eyeing the 76ers as a target? The Wizards aren’t trading Beal unless he asks to be moved, but if he has been considering Philadephia an option, this rumor would pressure him to maybe make that ask before the deadline.
• Where would this leave the Nets long term? If this trade were to happen, the Nets would have Durant — who signed an extension before this season — and Simmons locked up on longer term deals, plus Joe Harris is under contract for a couple more seasons (they just need him to get healthy), plus they will have whoever else they get in the trade. Kyrie Irving hanging out as potential free agent (he has a $36.5 million player option for next season; the Nets took an extension offer to him off the table). Nic Claxton is a restricted free agent. LaMarcus Aldridge is unrestricted, as are the other veterans on minimum deals (Blake Griifin, etc). Brooklyn would still be a contender, but things would look very different than they do right now.