Should the Sixers Make a Move for James Harden?

James Harden’s trade situation presents endless possibilities that will impact the Philadelphia 76ers no matter what happens.


Will Jack, Staff Writer

With superstar power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo signing a 5-year, $228 million contract to remain with the Milwaukee Bucks, many contending NBA teams have turned their attention to disgruntled shooting guard James Harden of the Houston Rockets. Harden seems to be interested in moving to another team via trade and he has plenty of suitors for his services.

One of the teams seeking to add James Harden is the Philadelphia 76ers. They’re competing with teams such as the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Brooklyn Nets, who are equally interested in acquiring Harden. In a competitive Eastern conference, these teams believe that Harden could separate them from the competition and make them true championship contenders. If you’re the Sixers, Harden seems like someone who could get the team to the finals if paired with young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. But as crazy as it sounds, would making a trade for James Harden actually be the wrong move for the Sixers?

James Harden is obviously a very good basketball player. Harden has won sixth man of the year and the 2017-2018 MVP award. He is also an all-star and all-NBA player every year. Add in the fact that he is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history and it is clear why there is such a strong trade market for him. Harden has never missed the playoffs during his time with the Rockets, which shows his ability to elevate his team as the number one guy. His accolades speak for themselves and provide a strong reason why the Sixers should want to make a move for him.

His fit on the team is determined by the trade package that Philly sends. If Simmons is included in the deal, Harden would replace Simmons as Embiid’s new co-star. The pick and roll with Harden and Embiid would make them one of the most dangerous duos in the league. They could also take turns with the ball, as Harden could do some of his signature isolation plays on some possessions while Embiid could use his bruising post scoring ability on others.

But what if Ben Simmons was not included in a trade package for Harden? Tobias Harris’s awful contract could be moved, but young prospects Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey could be included, along with multiple first round picks. The team would obviously be better on paper, but Harden’s fit with Simmons could be questionable based on the previous star point guards he played with. Simmons is a ball-dominant point guard, just like the last two point guards Harden has played with (Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook), and neither of those matchups ended well.

Back in 2017, the Rockets made a trade for elite Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Chris Paul and James Harden nearly beat the Golden State Warriors superteam in the 2018 Western Conference finals and took a 3-2 series lead, but Chris Paul tore his hamstring in the final minute of game 5 and Houston lost the series. They got their rematch in the playoffs the next year, but an embarrassing defeat to Golden State (who didn’t even have superstar forward Kevin Durant for part of the series) resulted in Paul being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for point guard Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook and Harden only made it to the second round, and lost to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in just 5 games. Westbrook was recently traded to the Washington Wizards for John Wall after just one season in Houston.

Chris Paul reportedly being frustrated by Harden barely stepping over the half court line when he didn’t have the ball is another reason to be worried about his fit with Simmons. But if the Sixers could trade for Harden and not give up Simmons, they’ll do it.

The chance of this happening seems to grow everyday as the Rockets seem to lose trade leverage. The Rockets losing trade value for Harden is a good thing for the Sixers, as they would have to give up fewer assets in order to get him, but some of the issues causing his decline in trade value would then be on the Sixers.

Harden has also gotten preferential treatment from the Rockets during his entire tenure there. He has a say in the moves that the front office makes and is not afraid to use that power.

According to reports, he would’ve demanded a trade if the Rockets failed to acquire Russell Westbrook in the 2019 offseason. Harden would certainly expect the same treatment in Philadelphia.

Harden also enjoys going to clubs, as evident by the fact that he partied in Atlanta and Las Vegas before reporting to the Rockets’ practices this year. He sometimes stays in cities for extra time during road games and enjoys spending time in the limelight.

So with all things considered, should the Sixers make a move for James Harden? If Ben Simmons has to be included in the deal, I don’t think that the Sixers would do it. Their championship chances would increase for a few years, but James Harden is already 32. Waiting for Simmons and Embiid to develop together seems more likely for them.

If the Sixers can make a move for Harden without giving up Simmons, I think it would happen. Tobias Harris’s contract might be the worst in the league, so they would probably have no issue parting ways with him. Promising young talents such as Shake Milton, Tyrese Maxey, and Matisse Thybulle could all be added into the deal, along with multiple first rounds picks. Parting ways with young talent is tough, but getting rid of a bad contract and keeping your two stars is an offer that the Sixers would not turn down.

The Sixers have a solid team now, but with Harden’s list of teams he’s interested in only including teams from the Eastern Conference, one of their rivals could jump on the opportunity to get Harden if the Sixers don’t make a move, or don’t make a strong enough offer.

Getting Harden could help the Sixers pull ahead of the competition of the East, but Harden could also bring issues to the Sixers that jeopardize their future after rebuilding and assembling a contending team for so many years.

Letting another team in the East get Harden could make the Sixers’ path to the finals much more difficult, but it could also let them watch another team implode due to Harden’s problems from a comfortable distance. There are endless possibilities for how the James Harden situation turns out, and the Sixers will be impacted by it one way or another.