This year's NBA trade deadline brought yet another blockbuster trade as the Philadelphia 76ers traded Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden. We broke down the trade earlier on the website, but as mentioned before, this swap makes perfect sense on paper.
The Sixers needed another perimeter creator and scorer to make sure Joel Embiid doesn't get worn down by playoff time, and more than anything needed to ditch Simmons. The Nets needed defense in any form they could find and Harden's skillset was redundant with what Kevin Durant and away-game Kyrie Irving bring to the table. Harden was sending signals he was leaving at the end of the year anyway. Everybody wins! Right?
Stephen A. Smith does not think so. In fact, he believes that, despite the evidence presented above, this trade could go very sideways for the Sixers. It may go so sideways that today, February 10, could go down as the worst day of Daryl Morey's career. Here's his explanation for that:
Smith's argument can be boiled down to the fact that the Sixers gifted the Nets basically everything they needed while also giving up their best shooter and two first-round picks. It's a solid case, especially since Morey's public posturing indicated the Sixers would be the overwhelming winners in any potential Simmons trade and in this one they come out as equals at best while helping out a divisional foe. When you consider that and then take into account the various issues that are likely to arise with the Harden-Embiid pairing, it's far from a no-brainer move.
But! This would have to go catastrophically wrong for it to be a legacy-defining move for Morey. He's already widely regarded as one of the league's premier deal-makers who has the steal of the decade on his resume in the form of the trade that brought Harden to the Rockets in the first place. If Harden ends up hurt for the majority of his tenure with the Sixers after Morey gives him a huge contract and the team does nothing of note as a result, then Smith will be right.
That scenario is a strong possibility. However, should the Sixers even reach the Eastern Conference Finals this year because Harden's scoring prowess lifts them to another level, the trade can be declared as a success. Simmons wasn't playing another minute for this team and Philadelphia wasn't a legit contender with him taking up a roster spot. Morey managed to pivot from that to acquiring a former MVP and future Hall of Famer, even one whose play has fallen off lately. That's a damn good deal, no matter what else he might've given up to make it happen.