Revisiting the James Harden-Ben Simmons Trade

Two wrongs don’t make a right, two lefts don’t make a right, and as the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers found out, neither does swapping one problem for another.

Now that the Sixers have flamed out of the NBA playoffs while failing to cover the point spread and James Harden has emerged as a passenger in their ultimate fate, it is time to revisit the trade that sent Phili’s problem-child to Brooklyn for a once-all-time scorer-turned shell of a player.

Which team won the trade? You decide.

James Harden to Philadelphia 

James Harden arrived in the City of Brotherly Love as a player who was supposed to complement Joel Embiid and facilitate for the other members of the team. Embiid went on record saying that he had never been so open as he was in Harden’s first few games with his new team, and the duo was labeled the big-little partnership since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. 

However, the honeymoon period did not last as Harden’s physical stature quickly deteriorated, and the team began the shrivel. The entire season came to a head when Embiid suffered an orbital fracture and concussion in the first round of the playoffs, adding to a torn ligament in his shooting hand. Harden was thereby left to fend for himself, and he disappointed massively.

Harden, who again was brought in to take big-time shots, only attempted two field goals in the second half of the elimination game against the Miami Heat— he was also shut out in the second half of the final two games in the series, so replacing Simmons did not really make much of a difference.

On top of the shocking, offensive performance, Harden let undrafted guard Max Strus go for 20 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists; at least Simmons held Trae Young to 21 points and 10 assists on 5-23 shooting in his final game with the team.


Ben Simmons to Brooklyn

Ben Simmons’ trade cannot yet be defined because he has not appeared in a game for his new club— however, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond did debut in Brooklyn after being packaged in the deal, and they impressed. The Sixers could have used Curry, especially in their team, to provide more consistent three-point shooting, especially following Danny Green’s injury.

No, Simmons’ arrival on the Nets team will not be felt until at least next season. He had an opportunity to appear in their first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics, and despite many team insiders forecasting him entering the fold, he continued to sit out.

Perhaps the most baffling part of the equation was that Simmons underwent back surgery after the season was finished, implying that either he was deceitful with his new team regarding the extent of his injury, or he and his agent withheld the severity of his ailment during initial trade talks, both of which would be very troubling revelations. 

Once Simmons does ultimately return, he will slide in next to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the heart of Brooklyn’s lineup. He will be their best perimeter defender but also has enough to handle inside assignments, and he can distribute with some of the best in the league. Hopefully, he is using his off-time to practice his shooting touch, but if the past is any indication, he will not.

Taking a step back, the Harden-Simmons trade frustrated both teams in extremity ways: Philadelphia thought they were getting a takeover player who instead seemed more akin to a 9-5 employee showing up and clocking out, while Brooklyn thought it was getting a young star overflowing with eagerness to get back on the court for a new team but only got an emotionally and physically damaged good that they did not even get to test drive.

The coming summer presents a lengthy period of free time for both Harden and Simmons, but depending on what type of condition they return in, they could drastically alter how they are viewed for the remainder of their careers.