Trading Tobias Harris Could Be Sixers’ Key To James Harden?

James Harden, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, NBA Trade Rumors
NBA Analysis Network

The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in a standstill with NBA All-Star Ben Simmons as the trade deadline continues to approach. There isn’t a superstar currently available that piques the Sixers’ interests. Could the team look to instead setup a potential subsequent move to land a player of that caliber?

It was recently reported by various NBA insiders, the 76ers have attempted to include Tobias Harris in trade discussions involving Simmons in order to offload their biggest contract. But why? Harris is a productive player that has served as the No. 2 option alongside Joel Embiid this season.

There are complications with the idea of the Sixers including Harris in the same trade package that ends the Simmons saga. It’s not easy to move a near $36 million salary in the middle of the season. Keep in mind, Simmons’ inclusion tacks on $33 million, too.

Many teams who have continued to be linked as a potential Simmons trade suitor would need to involve him as a point guard—creating further overlap in addition to some roster configurations that would feature further issues with too many talents in one spot.

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According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, an explanation he’s received from league executives has been that offloading Harris’ contract could be part of a larger plan. Perhaps, to make a run at a player like James Harden when he reaches free agency next summer.

“So I asked the question, why would they be looking to offload Tobias Harris, and the answer I got, what executives think, and look, Daryl [Morey] could be playing some sort of game,” said ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on a recent episode of his podcast.

“When Daryl is trying to do something, you always have to look four steps down. Sometimes you can’t even see what he’s trying to do. Executives think one of their options, it’s not the thing they may be most likely to do, but one of their options is they want to make a run at James Harden next summer.

“Harden can opt out of his contract, he elected not to extend, obviously there’s the connection with Daryl Morey, they tried to get him in a trade last year. I don’t know whether he would leave the [Brooklyn] Nets.

Now by the way, even if you offloaded these two guys, you’d still be taking back money, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that you could have enough money, I think James Harden’s number is like $48 million.”

The idea of pairing James Harden and Joel Embiid together is an intriguing one for the Philadelphia 76ers. Both players can punish a mismatch after a switch and Harden’s dynamic shot creation ability put teams in a tough spot when guarding Embiid in pick-and-roll situations. Using a deep drop wouldn’t be possible and he could get cleaner rolls if he’s willing to roll hard to the rim on a consistent basis.

Where it becomes confusing is in the fact that Harden is already on a highly talented team with the Brooklyn Nets. His team trails only the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings and has the luxury of playing alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

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Perhaps James Harden would be trusting his former President of Basketball Operations with the Houston Rockets to do what he proved unable after years of trying—put together a championship-winning roster.

If the Philadelphia 76ers truly are eyeing a potential big swing for James Harden, they would be far from the first team to try to open up cap space to make a big move. However, those attempts usually end up resulting in a failed effort to land the desired talent they pursue. It’s common for there to be a pre-existing relationship as is the case with Daryl Morey and Harden, however.