Even though Daryl Morey said recently that trading Ben Simmons before Thursday’s trade deadline is “less likely than likely,” things change quickly in the NBA, and teams haven’t stopped calling the Philadelphia 76ers.
And now, it appears the Sixers are willing to listen and talk.
On Friday, The Athletic reported that a Simmons for James Harden deal between the Sixers and Brooklyn Nets could happen before the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
There is some credence to the idea that Morey wanted to wait until the offseason to try to acquire Harden, who can become a free agent this summer, so that he wouldn’t have to give up as much in a July sign-and-trade.
But the Sixers also have a championship window now with center Joel Embiid having an MVP-caliber season. Philadelphia is 31-20 entering Friday and just one game out of first place behind Miami and Chicago. The Eastern Conference is wide open with the top nine teams separated by just five games.
How much is Morey willing to give up now to get Harden this season? How much does ownership want to really go for the title this season? Either way, Morey and Harden have a relationship from their time together with the Houston Rockets, where Morey was the top basketball operations executive and Harden rose to stardom and MVP.
It takes two sides to make a deal, and the Nets have been reluctant to part with Harden, who is averaging 22.5 points, 10.2 assists and 8.0 rebounds this season. The Nets also believe they have a championship window this season with Harden, Kevin Durant (sidelined with an injury) and Kyrie Irving, who can only play in road games because he is does not meet New York City’s vaccination requirement. Brooklyn is 29-22 and three games out of first place.
It’s also possible a deal for Simmons and other Sixers, such as Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey or Seth Curry, could strengthen Brooklyn’s overall roster, especially with Irving unable to play in home games.
The word in league circles is that Atlanta has reached out to Philadelphia about Simmons’ availability in a deal that could include the Hawks’ John Collins and Bodgan Bogdanovic, which The Athletic also reported.
Simmons has not played a game for the Sixers this season, a fallout stemming from Philadelphia’s second-round playoff loss to Atlanta last season. Simmons does not want to play for the Sixers and has lost salary while away from the team.