Upon hearing the news of any trade, the first reaction is to think about which team won the trade initially. In the NBA court of public opinion, that distinction usually goes to the side that obtains the more prominent name or superstar player. With Ben Simmons (and others) being traded for James Harden, it depends on which talking head you cared to listen to.
Now, nearly three months after the trade, it’s easy to see who came out better in this deal. This is a rare trade where nobody won. It’s really quite simple. Based on what the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets assumed they were getting in this trade, they’re both losers. Simmons never touched the court for Brooklyn and now needs back surgery after an “attempted” return one week earlier.
The Nets also got Seth Curry and Andre Drummond in the trade with Simmons, but they weren’t enough to help to get them past the Boston Celtics. Maybe they’ll find a couple of gems with the first-round draft picks they acquired from the Sixers, but that doesn’t help them now. This team was built to win now. So far, the Kyrie Irving - Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets have been a disappointment. And taking on Simmons halfway through the season has only magnified that fact.
But at least the Sixers can say Harden is on the court contributing. Currently, Harden’s contributing to a 2-0 series deficit against the Miami Heat, but he is out there lumbering up and down the court. There’s no way this is what Daryl Morey thought he was getting when he held off on trading Simmons so he could bring in his buddy Harden. At this point, we might as well call him “the artist formerly known as.”
The James Harden that Morey once knew must have stayed behind in Houston. Or maybe he took a detour on the way to Brooklyn and got held up at Magic City with a plate of ‘Louwill Lemon Pepper’ wings. This guy masquerading around Philly as Harden isn’t getting it done. Harden just can’t do what he used to offensively.
We’re talking about a player that made 10-point shots in a game in Houston and last year made seven threes in a playoff game against Boston. Harden’s made more than two threes in a game one time through the first eight games of this postseason. That happened in game one of the first round when he made four against Toronto.
If Harden can’t give the Sixers a couple of 30-point performances in a playoff series, then it’s time to demand a refund. Take back one of the draft picks or something. Yes, that sounds absurd, but this trade looks rather foolish now. I thought Philly gave up a little too much for Harden from the start. Now Joel Embiid is injured (as he’s prone to be) and Harden can no longer carry a team.
That’s why Philly traded for Harden. He’s supposed to be the second star and the emergency life raft just in case Embiid goes down. So, Embiid is down, and Harden might as well be right there with him because he certainly isn’t holding the Sixers up. Tyrese Maxey is more aggressive in scoring buckets than the former MVP.
This time next year, there could be a new narrative around this trade if Simmons bounces back from the back issue and can get his mental health in order. Should Simmons come back and have a great season in Brooklyn, I’ll be the first to come out and congratulate him. We’ve seen Harden’s best days, and they seem to be clearly in the rearview.
The BeardJames is still a good NBA talent, but his role on any team moving forward will be far different from what we’re used to seeing. And let’s not forget about Harden’s contract situation. He’s a free agent after next season, and he’s going to be looking for an extension worth somewhere around $50 million per year. Harden declined a similar two-year extension from the Rockets before he was traded. The way Harden played this year, I don’t even know if Mr. Morey still sees that type of value in him.