When Daryl Morey joined the Philadelphia 76ers front office last year, he was coming off a long career with the Houston Rockets. While Morey has made many moves to Houston, his acquisition of James Harden remains his most significant upgrade.
After leaving Houston and joining the Sixers front office, Morey attempted to trade for Harden for the second time in his career. As Harden grew unhappy with the Rockets’ organization and demanded a trade, the Sixers were one of the best teams in the Harden contest.
However, when all was said and done, the Sixers came up empty handed. And the Brooklyn Nets landed the former MVP instead. There are mixed messages as to whether the Sixers really had a chance to land Harden or not, given Houston’s frustration with Morey.
But one thing was certainly clear; the Sixers wanted Harden and were willing to move from their former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons and more to get him.
As there is a chance that Harden will become available again this summer, the Sixers are in a similar situation as they are believed to want to keep hope alive for a potential Simmons-Harden trade once again.
The good news… and the bad news
Is there a realistic chance the Sixers will land James Harden this summer? You can never say never when it comes to the NBA trade market. Typically, where there is smoke, there is fire. But that situation could get complicated as many factors need to come into place for the Sixers for a Simmons-Harden trade to finally happen.
The good news for the Sixers? James Harden reportedly rejected an extension offer from the Nets in the offseason. While Harden threw cold water on the idea that he turned down the offer because he will be leaving after this season, it’s still a notable decision.
The bad news for the Sixers? Harden has always preferred the Brooklyn Nets. Although it was reported several times last season that Harden was open to the idea of linking up with Joel Embiid on the Sixers, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of Athleticism report that Harden had a choice between Brooklyn and Philadelphia. He chose the first.
“With the final two offers in hand on the morning of Jan. 13, 2021, sources say Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta approached Harden to find out which destination he preferred: Brooklyn or Philadelphia. The choice was his – sort of.
Harden chose Brooklyn, but it’s unclear if Fertitta would have been willing to follow through on the Sixers’ deal had Harden opted for Philadelphia.
There was a sense of relief from Fertitta, sources said, that Harden had chosen the Nets. This made the transaction much easier and less problematic to close. Houston completed the Nets’ blockbuster that included four first-round picks and four draft trades. »
The idea that Harden prefers Brooklyn isn’t a good sign for the Sixers, who plan to pursue the veteran guard this summer.
While Harden’s mindset could undoubtedly change, the Nets’ franchise leadership isn’t taking anyone away from the organization.
Sure, the Nets found themselves out of the playoffs around the same time as the Sixers last season, but injuries piled up for Brooklyn and ultimately left the fate of their season in Kevin Durant’s hands. And even though Durant and Brooklyn fell short against the Milwaukee Bucks, they nearly pulled off the upset.
This year, the Nets have faced many obstacles, but that hasn’t affected their progress. With a 29-17 record, Brooklyn is half a game behind the first seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s still a lot of basketball to play, but the Nets remain the favorites in the East.
Harden’s future in Brooklyn likely hinges on how far the Nets can go. If they fall short again, it will be good news for the Sixers’ pursuit of Haden. If the Nets make a run for the title, then the Sixers could very well be on their way to a blockbuster deal with another team.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.