Nets trade James Harden to 76ers for Ben Simmons in blockbuster deal

Will Lou and Alex Wong discuss the Philadelphia 76ers acquiring James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a package including Ben Simmons, saying both teams benefited from the deal considering their current situations.

The Brooklyn Nets have traded James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks, completing the blockbuster deal that has consumed the NBA world's attention for weeks.

The Nets will receive an unprotected 2022 first-round pick from the 76ers, with a right to defer the selection until 2023, as well as a 2027 first-round pick that is protected 1-9. If the 2027 pick rolls over to 2028, it maintains the same protections, after which it will become two second-round picks and $2 million in 2029.

“James Harden is one of the truly elite players in the league. His career has been defined by incredible personal achievement, including honours as NBA MVP and three-time NBA scoring champion,” Philadelphia 76ers managing partner Josh Harris said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to pair him with Joel Embiid and this dynamic roster in our pursuit of an NBA title. I am proud to welcome James and Paul Millsap -- a proven veteran and former All-Star -- to the 76ers, and can’t wait for what the future holds for the city and our fans.”

The deal marks the end of what proved to be a doomed experiment for the Nets, who pulled off a league-shaking trade to acquire Harden back in January of 2021 to team him with fellow superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Just over a year later, with the Nets tumbling down the Eastern Conference standings amid a nine-game skid and Irving's refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine limiting his availability, a darkening cloud was cast over Brooklyn's championship aspirations. Harden is believed to have wanted out of the situation, with the 76ers being his preferred destination, according to prior reporting from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowksi. Harden reportedly never made his desire public for fear of the backlash he might incur from requesting a trade in consecutive seasons.

As part of the deal, Harden will opt into his $47.3 million player-option for next season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In Philadelphia, Harden will reunite with Daryl Morey, the 76ers president of basketball operations who oversaw the Houston Rockets teams on which Harden rose to superstardom.

Harden is averaging 22.5 points per game this season, significantly below the marks that made him a three-time scoring champion in Houston, but he remains a threat whenever the ball is in his hands.

The 76ers, already a force in the East, trailing the conference-leading Miami Heat by just 2.5 games, will now replace Simmons' vacancy on the roster with one of the league's best offensive threats, pairing Harden with MVP candidate Joel Embiid.

“The decision to trade James was a difficult one, however after recent discussions with him and his representatives we felt that this move would be best for all involved, as it better positions us to achieve our goals this season and in the years ahead," Nets general manager Sean Marks said. "We appreciate everything that James has done for our organization both on and off the court and wish him, Paul and DeAndre' the best moving forward.”

Simmons, who has yet to play a game since demanding a trade out of Philadelphia in the off-season, was seen as the crown jewel in hypothetical trade scenarios for much of the season amid his prolonged and complicated standoff with the 76ers.

The rift between Simmons and the 76ers has been present, in some capacity, since last year's playoffs, when Simmons' late-game shortcomings were seen as a reason for the team's elimination. The subsequent backlash to that performance included criticism from Embiid and 76ers head coach Doc Rivers.

Simmons ultimately would not play another game for the 76ers. The former No. 1 overall pick missed all of training camp and the pre-season as part of the stalemate, which persisted through the regular season with significant financial ramifications. For every game Simmons declined to report to the team, he forfeited $227,613.

When Simmons did re-join the team for practices, it was not in a game-action capacity, telling the club that he did not feel ready to play to his expectations despite a desire to return to the court. Amid Simmons' mental health concerns, his teammates expressed their support and respect for his process.

"And we’ll respect his privacy and space during this time," Tobias Harris wrote on Twitter. "When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court. That's it, that's all."

Simmons will continue to work with his therapist to get mentally ready to play in Brooklyn, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.

“It’s a work in progress,” a source close to Simmons told Shelburne. "But he’s thrilled with the change of scenery and has already spoken to Kevin Durant."

It remains unclear when Simmons will make his Nets debut. Last season, Simmons averaged 14.3 points, 6.9 assists and 7.2 rebounds across 58 games.

“We are thrilled to welcome Ben, Seth, Andre and their families to Brooklyn,” Marks said. “Ben is an All-NBA and All-Defensive player with elite playmaking abilities, while Seth has proven to consistently be one of the league’s best three-point shooters and Andre has been one of the league’s top rebounders for the last decade. Together, the three will enhance our core by providing versatility and depth on both ends of the floor while better balancing our roster.

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