It’s happened. The much-talked-about James Harden for Ben Simmons trade has gone down. The Brooklyn Nets send disgruntled James Harden and Paul Milsap to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the equally disgruntled Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, two first-round picks. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith thinks Brooklyn was the clear-cut winner. But it’s not that simple.
“I see Brooklyn as the clear winner in this deal,” said Smith on “NBA Today.”
This could potentially go down as the worst day in the career of Daryl Morey. pic.twitter.com/As8IZaywJM
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) February 10, 2022
Harden was unhappy with the inability to be on the floor consistently with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving due to injuries and Irving’s vaccine status. His numbers are down across the board. His eFG% and TS% of 49 and 59 are the worst since his rookie year. He is a +3.3 in EPM the third-worst mark in his career.
He checked out mentally the last few weeks and the writing was on the wall. This is the second team Harden has forced his way out of, and he will now team with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia for another crack at a deep playoff run.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, gets a 25-year-old dynamic 6-foot-11 ball-handler, passer, and finisher who is a two-time all-defensive selection. Simmons is also under contract for three more seasons after this one. He hasn’t played all season after trying to force a trade last summer following a poor playoff performance. His unwillingness to shoot is well documented, and he has cited mental health concerns as a reason for not playing this season.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne is reporting that Simmons will continue to work with his therapist to prepare for the season, and he’s already spoken to Durant.
Ben Simmons will continue to work with his therapist to get mentally ready to play in Brooklyn. “It’s a work in progress,” according to one source close to him. But he’s thrilled with the change of scenery and has already spoken to Kevin Durant. https://t.co/rVpErjw5Oa
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 10, 2022
Simmons’ agent and Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul said:
“We’ve got work to do to get him back to play, but it’s a great step in the right direction.”
What a crazy day, and that’s just one trade. Embiid had a little fun on Twitter after the trade was announced.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 10, 2022
The trade is a “win” for both sides.
Sixers President Daryl Morey fills Simmons’ empty roster spot with his former Rockets MVP, who despite down numbers was selected to his 10th All-Star Game and is averaging 22.5 points, 10.2 assists, and eight rebounds per game.
The fit with Embiid might be a little awkward at first. Embiid likes to play in the post and Harden is a spread pick-and-roll guy. Not to mention defensively Harden needs a switch-heavy scheme, which the Sixers could provide to some extent.
Late in games having a brilliant isolation player like Harden will be helpful for Embiid and the offense.
Brooklyn gave up all of its draft capital and Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert last season to acquire Harden. It also meant tying their future to max salary players, two of which are over 32, and the third who is 29 and has been unreliable the past few seasons.
Durant has a four-year extension that kicks in after this season. Paired with the 25-year-old Simmons and his deal, general manager Sean Marks has a more manageable cap sheet and a young star that can get better. Irving’s extension was taken off the table due to his vaccine stance, and he could become a free agent at the end of this season or opt into another year.
Either way, the Nets have some flexibility and two first-round picks to replenish their draft capital.
On the court Simmons immediately helps a team that is ranked 22nd in aDRTG. At his size he can switch one through five and he can help the Nets in transition with his ability to rebound and race up the court. He’s an elite passer and would be an effective roller to the rim.
Curry adds spacing with his shooting, and Drummond provides size and rebounding on a thin front line.
Given all of that, plus the fact that Morey will have to pay Harden, a supermax extension this coming offseason, the Nets are better off in the long term and are the overall “winner” in the trade.
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