After Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Monday that the Sixers‘ preference would be to retain Ben Simmons until the offseason in order to pursue James Harden, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer cited sources who said the same thing.
“At the end of the day, it’s Harden all the way,” one league source told Pompey. “They want Harden, whether they get him now (or) whether they get him on a forced sign-and-trade this summer.”
The idea of the Nets trading Harden during the season can probably be ruled out. But the former MVP will be eligible for free agency this summer, so he’ll have leverage at that point if he wants a change of scenery. Still, the Sixers wouldn’t have the cap space necessary to sign Harden outright, so Brooklyn would have to get on board with the idea of acquiring Simmons in a sign-and-trade.
Sources tell Pompey that the Nets are aware of Philadelphia’s plan to pursue Harden in the offseason and know that the star guard has good relationships with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and co-owner Michael Rubin. But Harden has previously stated that he plans to remain in Brooklyn long-term — and even if he has a change of heart, it would likely take a lot of convincing for the Nets to send him to a division rival.
“If I’m the Nets, am I giving up James Harden until I know what Ben is going to be?” one source said to Pompey. “And am I giving him up to go 100 miles away? I’m going to have to see [Harden] several different times a season.”
For what it’s worth, Pompey says people close to the Sixers deny that the team is focused specifically on Harden, reiterating that Morey just wants a star player in return for Simmons — Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard are among the other potential targets who have been frequently mentioned. Harden may be atop Philadelphia’s wish list though, and sources who spoke to The Inquirer suggested Harden would welcome playing with center Joel Embiid.
Here’s more on the Sixers:
- Some of Pompey’s sources believe potential trade partners are wary of seriously engaging in talks with the Sixers for fear of leaks. “Whenever teams inquire, it shows up in the media at some capacity within the next 24 hours,” a source told The Inquirer. “Everyone is wanting Daryl to come to them with hard proposals. No one wants to be the one to bring something in because they are afraid as soon as they do it, they’re going to be exposed.”
- One source told Pompey that trade discussions with the Sixers are also challenging because Morey has a tendency to move the goal posts — you might think you’re getting close to making a deal, then Morey will come back and ask for more.
- In a pair of stories for PhillyVoice.com, Kyle Neubeck examines the Harden rumors in an effort to determine how seriously to take them, and ranks hypothetical Simmons trade packages from most to least intriguing.
- David Murphy of The Philadelphia Inquirer advocates for patience on the Simmons front, since trading the former No. 1 overall pick represents the Sixers’ best chance to get Embiid the help he needs to turn the team into a title contender. While taking the best offer at the deadline may help in the short term, it could backfire in the longer term by limiting the team’s ceiling, Murphy writes.