The James Harden trade saga has dominated Philadelphia 76ers headlines throughout the summer. With recent reports, it appears this situation is only getting worse for the 76ers, and their title window may very well be closing. Which begs the question: should the 76ers blow it up? Today’s article will make the case for the 76ers to blow it up and start a rebuild.
Why the 76ers Should Blow it Up
The James Harden Trade Fiasco
Harden originally demanded a trade in June hoping to land with the Los Angeles Clippers. The June trade request was Harden’s third trade request since 2021. Earlier this week, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the two sides had ended trade talks and Harden would return to Philadelphia this season. However, this morning, Shams Charania shared a video of James Harden saying “Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.”
James Harden: “Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of. Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.” pic.twitter.com/AmHJ0WwbF2
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 14, 2023
Early reports indicate that Harden’s comments do not change Morey’s intentions to end trade negotiations “unless it makes the 76ers a better team.” Harden’s comments certainly add an interesting wrinkle to the trade saga, and Harden refusing to play for the 76ers is a strong possibility. Harden’s issues with Morey caused the initial trade request in June. The issues stem from last summer when Harden took a pay cut and Morey allegedly promised him a lucrative extension, which Morey failed to deliver this summer.
Bad for Both Sides
Harden’s trade value has plummeted due to his trade request, his declining play, and shaky playoff performances. In addition to lack of value, there are no clear suitors for Harden. That is, in part, why he opted into his contract and demanded a trade instead of testing free agency.
This puts the 76ers into an incredibly difficult situation. The 76ers are trying to build a contender around Joel Embiid and cannot afford to take pennies on the dollar for Harden. However, the alternative could be worse. We’ve seen a disgruntled Harden before and it’s not pretty. Harden could refuse to play for the 76ers or put in minimal effort if he does suit up similar to what he did with the Houston Rockets. It’s unclear what exactly Harden will do if he isn’t granted a trade, because he is still seeking a lucrative extension. But what is clear is the 76ers have no leverage in any trade talks, and Harden’s trade value will only continue to go down.
A Closing Window
Ultimately, there’s no right answer for the 76ers in terms of a Harden trade. In any case, the 76ers will be left with a worse roster and less of a chance at a title. For the better part of 5 years, Philadelphia has been trying to build a contender. However, they’ve never even made it to the conference finals. With Harden likely out the door, there’s no avenue for Philadelphia to win a championship.
Even if Tyrese Maxey makes another jump, the 76ers won’t be legit contenders. A core of Embiid, Maxey, and quality role players is a nice team but not nearly enough to contend for a title. Especially since there have been more talented 76ers rosters that have fallen short.
That’s not to say there’s no value in being a pretty good team. But after years of trial and error with several different rosters and no avenue left to build a contender, it comes to a point where the smart move is to hit the reset button and get real value for some of your best assets.
Trade Joel Embiid?
The reigning MVP Joel Embiid has been with the 76ers throughout his entire career. Throughout his prime, the 76ers have attempted to build a contender around him with co-stars including James Harden, Jimmy Butler, and Ben Simmons. Of course, none of these rosters accomplished anything substantial. With Harden on his way out and the 76ers title chances decreasing. It’s hard to imagine Embiid not asking out next off-season. At 29 Embiid is entering the later years of his prime and wants to maximize his chance at a title. Embiid has tried to stick with the 76ers through thick and thin. But at some point, it’s time to move on to a team with a better shot at winning the title.
From the 76ers perspective, you should sense this and be proactive about the situation. Embiid’s trade value will never be higher than it is right now. If the 76ers trade him between now and the February trade deadline, they would get an incredible haul in return. This haul could include several first-round draft picks, 2 talented young players, and whatever salaries it takes to match. A massive trade return like this would kickstart Philly’s rebuild and give them an exciting young core to complement Maxey.
Additionally, at 29 with a long history of injuries despite his undisputed talent, Embiid still has a good amount of risk. It could prevent Philly from getting an enormous return if the 76ers decide to hold on to him for too long. Ultimately, beginning a rebuild is a smart and proactive move for the 76ers that could set them up for more future success.
The Last Word
While it’s unclear if the 76ers are even considering a full rebuild, things can change very quickly in the NBA. So don’t be surprised if, within the next six months, the 76ers decide to blow it up and fully rebuild. The chances of Philly contending for a title are extremely slim. As a result, Embiid is a strong candidate to request a trade soon. As crazy as it might sound, trading Embiid along with Harden could be the best decision for the 76ers franchise. Ending the Embiid era without an Eastern Conference Finals appearance may be a disappointment. However, a rebuild is full of new possibilities and gives Philly a bright future.