Nets 'deal former MVP James Harden to 76ers for disgruntled Philadelphia star Ben Simmons'

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James Harden wanted out of Brooklyn, Ben Simmons demanded to be traded by Philadelphia, and now both have apparently gotten their wish.  

Just one year after acquiring Harden, a former NBA MVP, the struggling Nets are dealing the disgruntled star to the 76ers for Simmons, who hasn’t played since making his trade demand before the season. Simmons, the Australian-born LSU product, still has another three years and $113.6 million remaining on his contract with the Nets. 

‘Ben Simmons is thrilled,’ reported ESPN’s Romana Shelburne.

The deal, first reported by ESPN, will see Harden and veteran forward Paul Millsap going to the Sixers in exchange for Simmons, center Andre Drummond, guard Seth Curry, and two future first-round picks.  

The ESPN report came approximately 90 minutes before the NBA’s trade deadline at 3pm ET. 

Although Nets head coach Steve Nash denied earlier reports that Harden could be traded, the star guard has become increasingly irritated in Brooklyn. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier Thursday that, although Harden did not formally request a trade to Philadelphia, he was hoping that a deal could be made. 

According to The Athletic, Harden has reportedly opted into the final year and $47 million on his contract, which means he will not become a free agent after this season. He played only 88 games over parts of two seasons with Brooklyn, but still managed to get paid $63.5 million by the Nets over that time, according to Spotrac

Just one year after acquiring former NBA MVP James Harden (pictured) in a trade, the struggling Brooklyn Nets are trading the reportedly disgruntled star to the Philadelphia 76ers for another discontented guard, former All-Star Ben Simmons

Just one year after acquiring former NBA MVP James Harden (pictured) in a trade, the struggling Brooklyn Nets are trading the reportedly disgruntled star to the Philadelphia 76ers for another discontented guard, former All-Star Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons (pictured) has not played this season and has asked to be traded. The Simmons camp reportedly cited mental health issues and an inability to mesh on the court with teammate Joel Embiid as reasons for wanting to leave

Ben Simmons (pictured) has not played this season and has asked to be traded. The Simmons camp reportedly cited mental health issues and an inability to mesh on the court with teammate Joel Embiid as reasons for wanting to leave

The 76ers may have turned themselves into a title contender by acquiring Harden without giving up promising young guard Tyrese Maxwell, who is currently in his second season

The 76ers may have turned themselves into a title contender by acquiring Harden without giving up promising young guard Tyrese Maxwell, who is currently in his second season

The Nets are adding Simmons and Seth Curry and Ben Simmons to a starting lineup that already includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, although the latter is not permitted to play home games currently due to New York City's vaccine mandate. The Nets could also choose to start center Andre Drummond, who was also acquired in the deal with Philadelphia

The Nets are adding Simmons and Seth Curry and Ben Simmons to a starting lineup that already includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, although the latter is not permitted to play home games currently due to New York City’s vaccine mandate. The Nets could also choose to start center Andre Drummond, who was also acquired in the deal with Philadelphia 

The Nets were expected to compete for the NBA title behind Harden and fellow stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But Durant is injured and Irving is a part-time player because of his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In the end, the trio played only 16 games together with Brooklyn. 

The Nets have dropped nine straight games to fall to eighth place and the play-in position in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

Simmons, meanwhile, has not played this season and has asked to be traded. The Simmons camp reportedly cited mental health issues and an inability to mesh on the court with teammate Joel Embiid as reasons for wanting to leave. 

Harden, 32, has a hamstring strain and hasn’t played since a loss to the Sacramento Kings on February 2. He played 37 minutes and scored four points on 2-of-11 shooting but had 12 assists and seven rebounds.

On the season, Harden has played in 44 games, averaging 22.5 points and a team-leading 10.2 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game.

This marks the second time that Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey (pictured) has traded for Harden. In 2012, while with the Houston Rockets, Morey acquired Harden for guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder

This marks the second time that Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey (pictured) has traded for Harden. In 2012, while with the Houston Rockets, Morey acquired Harden for guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder

Simmons, 25, is a three-time All-Star over his four NBA seasons, scoring 15.9 points with 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists in 275 career games, all starts with the 76ers. He was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Sixers out of LSU in 2016. 

This marks the second time that Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has traded for Harden. 

In 2012, while with the Houston Rockets, Morey acquired Harden for guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-rounder. 

Although Harden never won a title in Houston, he did go on to have the best years of his career, ultimately winning the league’s MVP in 2018.  

Morey stepped down in Houston in 2020, and a year later, when the Nets acquired him for a steep price in a three-team trade: Center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince went to Cleveland, while guard Caris LeVert and forward Rodions Kurucs, as well as three first-round draft picks and four first-round pick swaps went to Houston.  

Harden, 32, has a hamstring strain and hasn't played since a loss to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 2. He played 37 minutes and scored four points on 2-of-11 shooting but had 12 assists and seven rebounds

Harden, 32, has a hamstring strain and hasn’t played since a loss to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 2. He played 37 minutes and scored four points on 2-of-11 shooting but had 12 assists and seven rebounds

Seth Curry, Stef's younger brother, is now headed to Brooklyn, along with Ben Simmons

Seth Curry, Stef’s younger brother, is now headed to Brooklyn, along with Ben Simmons

Andre Drummond could move from a bench role in Philadelphia to a starter's spot in Brooklyn

Andre Drummond could move from a bench role in Philadelphia to a starter’s spot in Brooklyn

An early look at the Philadelphia 76ers' All-Star duo of James Harden (left) and Joel Embiid

An early look at the Philadelphia 76ers’ All-Star duo of James Harden (left) and Joel Embiid 

Reaction to the trade was mixed, to say the least. 

Many felt the Nets acquired a malcontent in Simmons, who has struggled to respond to criticism about his offensive game. 

‘Look, Nets fans,’ one 76ers fan tweeted, ‘I tried to talk myself into Ben Simmons too when we drafted him. I thought this dude was gonna be a star. He’s a quitter, a loser, and turns up small on the biggest stages. Enjoy your hack a Ben experience.’

But not everyone agreed with that take. 

‘If it goes through, the Sixers gave up A LOT to get Harden,’ tweeted another fan. 

Several pointed out the declining production of Harden, who is shooting a career-worst 33.3 percent from three-point range this year. 

‘If you think Harden is still top 10 I feel sorry for you,’ another fan tweeted. 

As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out, Harden forced a trade for the second time in as many years. Now he'll get a chance to play along MVP candidate Joel Embiid in Philadelphia

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski pointed out, Harden forced a trade for the second time in as many years. Now he’ll get a chance to play along MVP candidate Joel Embiid in Philadelphia 

Reaction to the trade was mixed, to say the least. Many felt the Nets acquired a malcontent in Simmons, who has struggled to respond to criticism about his offensive game

Reaction to the trade was mixed, to say the least. Many felt the Nets acquired a malcontent in Simmons, who has struggled to respond to criticism about his offensive game

Many struggle to separate this trade from the one the Nets made to acquire Harden last year, which cost the club three first-round picks, four first-round pick swaps, as well as Jarrett Allen, now considered among the best defensive centers in basketball.

The Nets are also acquiring a player in Simmons who has struggled in the playoffs, is notoriously averse to shooting outside the paint, and has refused to play this season citing mental health concerns. Simmons, a former top-overall draft pick, has also faced criticism from Embiid and 76ers coach Doc Rivers. 

But sunk costs and Simmons’s situation aside, the Nets were facing a dilemma about re-signing Harden. The issue is that the 32-year-old, who has battled injury and conditioning problems this year, can command a five-year, $269 million extension under the NBA’s Larry Bird Exception that allows teams to spend above the salary cap to retain potential free agents. 

The Athletic is reporting that Harden has opted into the final year and $47 million on his contract, which means he will not become a free agent after this season. However, that may not have been the case if the Nets had decided to keep him. 

By trading Harden, and acquiring useful role players like Curry and Drummond as well as two future first-round picks, the Nets are side-stepping any potential issues re-signing the All-Star guard. 

In Simmons, considered by many to be among the NBA’s best and more versatile defenders, the Nets have a talented 25-year-old who is still under contract for another three years. 

‘Ben Simmons ends up in New York, on a team he fits great on, with a chance to compete for a championship,’ tweeted ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. After everything he and his agent Rich Paul went through to get here, that’s a strong resolution considering where this started last spring. 

In Simmons, considered by many to be among the NBA's best and more versatile defenders, the Nets have a talented 25-year-old who is still under contract for another three years

In Simmons, considered by many to be among the NBA’s best and more versatile defenders, the Nets have a talented 25-year-old who is still under contract for another three years

From Philadelphia’s perspective, the trade gives Embiid, their franchise cornerstone, a reliable scoring threat on the perimeter. Too often, perhaps due to Simmons’s deficiencies as a shooter, opposing defenses have been able to focus on Philadelphia’s All-Star center. 

Now defenses will have to split their attention between Embiid, an MVP candidate averaging a league-high 29.4 points per game, and Harden, who typically ranks among the best scorers in basketball. 

‘I’ve got no skin in the game but James Harden mixing with Joel Embiid is something I truly can’t wait to see unfold,’ tweeted longtime Raptors beat writer Doug Smith.  

Best of all, Morey completed the deal without including talented young guard Tyrese Maxey, who is considered one of the 76ers’ young building blocks. 

Of course, getting Harden to pass the ball to the young Maxey might be difficult, given the former’s reputation for dominating the ball. 

‘TYRESE MAXEY: ”im open!,”’ tweeted Rob Perez, a popular NBA commenter. 

‘JAMES HARDEN: ”…and?”’ 

Getting Harden to pass the ball to the young Maxey might be difficult, according to Rob Perez

Getting Harden to pass the ball to the young Maxey might be difficult, according to Rob Perez



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