Many NBA fans were collectively refreshing their Twitter feeds today for an Adrian Wojnarowski or Shams Charania tweet breaking a blockbuster trade, and it happened. Superstar James Harden has been traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers in a huge multiplayer deal headlined by Ben Simmons. Let’s look at how the deal came to fruition, along with my Nets Sixers Blockbuster trade grades.
Nets Sixers Blockbuster Deal Shakes Up Eastern Conference
Philadephia 76ers receive: James Harden and Paul Millsap.
James Harden Forces Another Trade, Ending the Ill-Fated Nets ‘Big Three’
Barely a year after forcing his way out of the Houston Rockets, James Harden forced his way from the team he demanded to be traded to, thus ending the ill-fated marriage of this version of the Nets ‘big three’. Whether due to injury, hold out, or vaccine rules, the star trio played an absurd total of 16 games together since that trade.
Whilst on paper they looked destined for multiple championships together, this marriage always seemed destined for failure. Just think about the way Harden forced his way out incongruously in Houston. With his ball-dominant style to now changing to a secondary or tertiary role alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving‘s increasingly bizarre, yet transcendent star.
Leading them was Kevin Durant in the ‘Batman’ role. Despite coming off a serious injury, Durant is one of the top two players in the world. Durant hitching his wagon to Harden has proven to be a misstep in his Hall of Fame career. Durant’s been simply incredible when healthy. However, he wasn’t getting the help envisioned. Kyrie’s vaccine status was unforeseen, causing many problems behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Harden, whose performances had tailed off, missed games through injury and an apparent hold-out.
Furthermore, getting all these players on the same page seemed a challenge from the outset. A rookie coach like Steve Nash didn’t seem the best option to handle these egos.
According to sources behind the scenes, Harden made clear to Brooklyn officials he was not signing an extension and demanded to be traded to Philadelphia. This put the Nets in a very difficult position. It is difficult to gain trade leverage in a situation like this from a front office perspective. Full credit has to be given to GM Sean Marks for getting the return he did in this situation.
Daryl Morey Gets His Man
Morey the GM of the 76ers, is reunited with Harden. After forging a strong and successful working relationship together in Houston, this seems a far better fit for Harden. Morey tried trading for him last year but lost out to the Nets. Consequently, he will be delighted to have landed him at this deadline.
This deal transpired in a similar way to what happened in Brooklyn with Ben Simmons holding out from the team. Simmons held out for multiple reasons, partly due to falling out with the fan base after a poor playoffs last year. Many teams came in with significant offers to land Simmons, all rejected. It seemed surprising at the time not to move him earlier, but it’s clear now why the Sixers waited. They believed they could eventually land James Harden in a deal involving Simmons. N0w the Sixers have a star player and playmaker to partner Joel Embiid, potentially the missing piece for a title run. Both sides have to be happy with how this trade has worked out.
Nets Sixers Blockbuster Trade Grades
Nets: Grade A-
From a difficult position with an unhappy star, the Nets made out well. Seth Curry offers elite perimeter shooting from the guard spot. He is shooting 40% from range this season, and 45% from range last season. Providing a solid 48% from the field and 15 points per game this year. He is one of the sneaky excellent pieces of this deal.
Andre Drummond provides a significant presence in the paint and adds size and shot-blocking which the Nets have largely been lacking this year.
Ben Simmons seems a better fit to partner with Durant. At his best, he’s a walking triple-double. Whilst his infamous deficiencies in terms of jump shooting and free-throw shooting is well documented; he is still an elite ball-handler and defender in the half-court. They can use him in a Point Forward role, or to play beside Kyrie or Seth.
Furthermore, Brooklyn can go small-ball with elite shooters from behind the arc in Kyrie, Seth, and Patty Mills. Alternatively, they can opt for size with Drummond, Simmons, and Durant. It adds difficult matchups for teams and catapults the Nets back into the reckoning among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Also, the Nets have recouped two first-round draft picks, after emptying the vault to trade for Harden originally, also helping them move forward.
Getting Simmons focused after an acrimonious end to his time in Philadelphia will be the main challenge.
Sixers: Grade B+
Morey gets his favorite player in former MVP James Harden, who will be a far better fit in Philadelphia. He can be used as a pick and roll ball-handler, and scorer beside Embiid. This suits his playing style more than it did in Brooklyn. Harden likes to play with big men in pick-and-roll situations, thriving playing with Clint Capela in Houston.
In any instance, Embiid finally has a legitimate playmaker to help his MVP-calibre talents. Their skill-sets should suit each other. Embiid can dominate with his strength and shooting, as can Harden. Furthermore, Harden should have no trouble feeding him in the post.
This is a big swing for Morey, which he traditionally loves to do. He will be tasked with getting Harden back to the player he was back in Houston.
My only concern about this trade is where Harden is at this point in his career. Most notably, how his playing style translates to playing with other stars. Infamously he couldn’t work with the Point God Chris Paul in Houston. Forcing Morey to trade him for Russell Westbrook, another player he didn’t mesh with. All this amid concerns about his declining fitness, shooting percentage, and most of all desire, especially in Brooklyn. His talent is other-worldly, and he will walk into the Hall of Fame. However finding an ex team-mate to congratulate him once he’s there, is another question. His desire to sacrifice his game to win titles remains in doubt. If he can’t work with pros like Durant and Paul who can he work with? This could be his last chance to reflect and prove himself.
Who Made Out Better from Nets Sixers Blockbuster Trade?
Whilst both sides achieved what they needed from this deal, I feel the Nets made out really well. Mired in a ten-game losing streak with a star holding out, Marks pivoted well. This trade covers needs and re-gained picks in the process. This feels like a win under the circumstances.
However, if Philadelphia can get Harden back to the form which won him an MVP and several scoring titles, they have to be delighted to acquire a player of this stature to partner Embiid. Especially for a reasonable price. This is a good trade for both teams. This year’s Eastern Conference playoffs promises to be fascinating. May the best team win.
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