On ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith suggested that the Philadelphia 76ers should consider making a trade for Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden, even if it means parting ways with their top playmaker, Ben Simmons.
As seen in the video below, Smith said on Thursday that if the Sixers are hoping to reach the NBA Finals, Daryl Morey — who has been rumored to be joining the team as its new president of basketball operations — should make a move for Harden. He noted, however, that such a transaction might force Philadelphia to part ways with Simmons, who, at only 24 years old, has emerged as one of the top defensive point guards in the NBA.
“I would remind everybody while we sit here and we lament the state of affairs with the Houston Rockets and all of this other stuff, let me remind everybody that for the last three years James Harden has averaged 30, 36, and 34 [points]. When you talk about Harden with a big man the quality of a Joel Embiid, a healthy Joel Embiid, you’re talking chip.”
Smith went on to say that he’s “tired” of how people don’t appreciate the “greatness” of Harden, who not only excels as a one-on-one player but also as someone who can get to the free-throw line on a regular basis. He stressed that the former league MVP can shoot and score from anywhere on the court and could thrive if he gets to play alongside Embiid.
Regarding Simmons, the ESPN personality speculated that it will likely be “problematic” if the Australian star plays in the same backcourt as Russell Westbrook, given how both players aren’t known for their ability to score from outside. However, he hinted that the Rockets might not make it beyond the second round of the playoffs anyway and might as well save some money by replacing the 31-year-old Harden with the much younger, lesser-paid Simmons. He added that Morey — if hired by the Sixers — is the type of executive who would make a trade for anyone.
"I'm Daryl Morey, the first thing I'm trying to do is get James Harden to become a Philadelphia 76er. Even if it means me trading Ben Simmons."
— First Take (@FirstTake) October 29, 2020
Commenting on Smith’s suggestion, Bleacher Report wrote that Harden is clearly the better player at this point in his career and could form a devastating pick-and-roll duo with Embiid while also filling a need as a halfcourt scorer. On the other hand, the publication pointed out that Simmons’ youth and his skills as a defender, passer, and transition player make it too early for Philadelphia to give up on him, even if it means trading for a proven superstar like Harden.
The outlet also noted that the theoretical transaction, while representing a “win-now” move for the Sixers, might favor the Rockets in the long run if Simmons is able to fully live up to his potential.
Despite Smith’s comments, as well as the various Harden-to-Sixers trade ideas that have been proposed as of late, it appears unlikely that such a deal will push forward. According to USA Today‘s Sixers Wire, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on the Hoop Collective podcast that the transaction is “not happening.”