Reaction and grades for both teams following the biggest trade of the NBA season. (Image Courtesy New York Post)
By Ryan Ford
Woah. This may be the blockbuster trade of all blockbuster trades.
Rumored in the days leading up to the NBA’s trade deadline, which occurred at 3 pm ET on February 10th, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers swapped disgruntled stars James Harden and Ben Simmons in a trade-only hours before the deadline, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic (@ShamsCharania) and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (@WojESPN).
There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s break it down team by team.
What they acquired: Guard/forward Ben Simmons, guard Seth Curry, center Andre Drummond, 76ers’ 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), 76ers’ 2027 first-round pick (top-8 protected)
Instant Reaction: Only 13 months ago, the Nets pulled off the first blockbuster trade to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets to team him up with superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Many saw this as the new ‘Superteam’ of the NBA, and the tantalizing potential that this star power seemed capable of was obvious to everyone.
Now, it’s hard to view the move to get Harden from the Rockets as anything other than a failure. Over the last two seasons, the trio of Harden-Kyrie-KD played “a grand total of 16 games and 364 minutes together.” (Steve Aschburner of NBA.com) In those games, the Nets were 13-3, but they didn’t win a championship last season after injuries derailed Kyrie and Harden, and now the experiment will always be known as a big what-if.
On the bright side, the Nets were able to turn James Harden, who was clearly frustrated with his role in Brooklyn, into Ben Simmons, who has been an All-Star three times, an All-Defensive team member twice, and an All-NBA player once. He’s also only 25 years old, and is under contract through the 2024-25 season. Throw in sharpshooter Seth Curry and paint-menace Andre Drummond, and Nets fans have to be happy about the return, all things considered. Did I mention that they got draft capital on top of all of that? Grade: A
What they acquired: Guard James Harden, Forward Paul Millsap
Instant Reaction: I may be in the minority on this, but I think Ben Simmons is a great basketball player. But clearly, he and Philadelphia were not going to work long-term given everything that has happened since last season’s playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.
Ben Simmons was essentially an empty-roster spot, an expensive one at that, having not played a minute for the 76ers since he demanded a trade in the offseason. Meanwhile, center Joel Embiid is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, averaging a league-leading 29.4 points per game with shooting splits of 49.8/35.8/81.2. Despite Simmons’ holdout, Embiid has the Sixers only 2.5 games out of the first seed in the crowded Eastern Conference.
Add former MVP James Harden to the fold, and suddenly Philadelphia looks like a legitimate championship-contender. Granted, Harden hasn’t looked his best since the move to Brooklyn last season, and he is considerably older (32) and more expensive ($46,872,000 player-option for next season). But I think he will be more motivated than ever to silence his doubters and finally find some postseason success, and his fit alongside Embiid on paper is as good as any duo in basketball.
The Sixers are all-in. Their much-maligned GM Daryl Morey deserves credit for not settling and instead waiting for the best deal throughout this Simmons saga. High-risk but potentially high-reward. Grade: B+
Melanie Moyer '22,