A James Harden For Ben Simmons Swap Makes Sense For the 76ers and the Rockets

Ryan Phillips
Ben Simmons and James Harden, Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons and James Harden, Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers / Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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James Harden wants off the Houston Rockets and is reportedly amenable to joining the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are now run by Daryl Morey, the man who constructed a team around Harden in Houston. A trade between the two sides makes sense, especially if the 76ers send Ben Simmons in the other direction.

The Rockets and Harden aren't going to work this thing out. He wants out of town badly. The team should be searching for deals that land a good player and a good chunk of draft compensation. Philadelphia can offer both.

Harden is 31 but is among the NBA's top five players, and he's easily the league's best offensive weapon. He's led the NBA in scoring in each of the past three seasons and has been First Team All-NBA six times overall and in four straight campaigns. The 2018 NBA MVP finished the 2019-20 season leading the league in scoring (34.3), while finishing second in PER (29.11) and seventh in assists (7.5). He's worth the haul it would take the Sixers to land him.

Any deal for Harden should start with Ben Simmons. The 24-year-old has never developed into the league-changing talent many expected when he was a 6-foot-10 point-forward at LSU. That said, Simmons is an All-Star caliber player who has some upside left to find, though he'll never be an offensive force. He finished last season averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists in 35.4 minutes per game. His shooting is still a major issue holding him back. Still, he was Third Team All-NBA in 2020 and was named to the All-Defensive First Team.

Simmons and Joel Embiid have been trying to make things work as a duo for three years. It hasn't happened. They are awkward on the court together and things simply don't mesh well for the Sixers when they're out there. Harden would be the perfect complement to Embiid's game. A lethal perimeter presence who could open things up for the big man and pair perfectly with him in the pick-and-roll game. It's also worth noting that if the Sixers bring in Harden they won't need Simmons anymore, so any reluctance to move him is silly.

As for the Rockets, in any deal they'd have to receive Simmons and more. The Sixers own all of their first-round picks from 2021 through 2028, so just stack a few on, add some salary ballast and make a deal. Simmons is owed $177.2 million over the next five years and next to John Wall's massive contract that duo won't be cheap. But his contract is worth it to get a young potential star who could be the center of the franchise moving forward. The Rockets could use the draft compensation they receive to build around him or package it in trades for other pieces.

New Sixers coach Doc Rivers knows how to get the most out of his perimeter players. He let Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to a title, took Chris Paul to new heights and helped Lou Williams become an offensive force off-the-bench. Imagine what he could do with James Harden flanked by Tobias Harris, Embiid, a Swiss Army Knife like Matisse Thybulle and shooters like Danny Green and Seth Curry.

This deal makes a lot of sense for both sides and should happen.

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