Sixers pivoting after potential James Harden deal would have to include Ben Simmons

Simmons Harden 76ers
The Nets came away with James Harden rather than the Sixers having to trade Ben Simmons and much more.
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

There is little chance now that the Philadelphia 76ers will acquire Houston Rockets superstar James Harden, but that doesn’t mean new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is abandoning the idea of making big moves.

According to KRON News’ Jason Dumas on Wednesday, belief is continuing to dwindle in Philadelphia that the Sixers could land Harden in a blockbuster deal because they would have to include All-Star point guard Ben Simmons in a potential deal.

Dumas did add, however, that Morey is working on “something else significant” that would allow the Sixers to keep both Simmons and star center Joel Embiid, ensuring the team’s core stays together in their elusive pursuit of an Eastern Conference title.

It is unknown at this time what other potential targets the team could pursue.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania initially reported on Monday that the Sixers — along with the Brooklyn Nets — were Harden’s top trade destinations after demanding a trade away from the Rockets, who could also be trading superstar point guard Russell Westbrook, too.

Morey was the man who acquired Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, sparking the transformation of the guard from role player to elite scoring talent. Over his last 218 games (three seasons), the 31-year-old has averaged 33.7 points per game, leading the NBA in scoring in each of those years.

With three years and approximately $132 million left on Harden’s contract, which includes a player option for 2022-23, it would have taken plenty for the 76ers to come away with him. The market didn’t necessarily help their chances either after the Milwaukee Bucks acquired Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans for  Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, plus three first-round picks.

A player of Harden’s status would warrant even more, hence the inclusion of Simmons’ name.

Morey’s activity, however, suggests that he is looking for something significantly more this offseason to get the Sixers over the top.

Despite a strong starting five of Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Embiid, the Sixers’ lack of depth and consistent production played a major role in an inconsistent 2019-20 season and a disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs — a sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

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