December 10, 2023

76ers end Ben Simmons saga as they ship him to Nets for James Harden


Philly Sports Reports

They did it.

The Ben Simmons saga is over, and James Harden is a Philadelphia 76er.

The team on Thursday traded the 25-year-old to the Net sand acquired Harden and Paul Millsap. Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick, and a protected 2027 first-round pick are heading to the Brooklyn Nets along with Simmons.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski were first on the news. 

Here are the full details of the trade via Noah Levick:

Harden, 32, is a 10-time All-Star and will by far be Joel Embiid’s most accomplished teammate. The Sixers wanted to add a second star during Embiid’s prime and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey did exactly that, adding a tremendous offensive player. Morey has long appreciated Harden’s game and first traded for him with Houston in 2012.

There are clear risks to the deal related to Harden’s future. He’s been affected by hamstring injuries over the last two seasons with Brooklyn. Charania reported that Harden is picking up his player option of approximately $47.4 million for the 2022-23 season, which would make him eligible for an extension as large as five years, $274.6 million. However, the trade gives the Sixers a strong on-paper chance at winning the Eastern Conference this season if Harden is healthy. 

Now for Simmons.

He requested a trade in the offseason, Morey said at Sixers media day. In the ensuing months, Simmons participated in three practices, was suspended a game for conduct detrimental to the team, told the Sixers he was not mentally ready to play, and was the subject of persistent trade speculation. Through it all, he never appeared in a game. 

The first pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Simmons fractured his foot during the final training camp practice of his rookie year and did not play that season. He suited up as a Sixer for the first time during the 2017-18 campaign and earned the Rookie of the Year award. Three consecutive All-Star nominations followed along with two All-Defensive First Team selections.

The Sixers went to the playoffs four times with Simmons, though his latest postseason left the largest impression on the NBA — and for very negative reasons.

While still effective as a facilitator and open-floor playmaker and still strong defensively on stars Bradley Beal and Trae Young, Simmons’ shooting was terrible. He made 34.2% of his playoff free throws. In half-court offense, his impact was highly limited late in games. 

Simmons missed the 2020 postseason after suffering a left knee injury in the NBA’s bubble that required surgery. The Sixers then made dramatic organizational changes following a first-round sweep by the Boston Celtics without Simmons. They fired Brett Brown as head coach, hired Doc Rivers and brought in Morey as president of basketball operations. Morey added Danny Green and Seth Curry in his first offseason with the team, trading away Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Though the Sixers claimed the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed and seemingly had a favorable path to the conference finals, they fell short of postseason expectations, losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round.

Simmons’ time in Philadelphia was distinguish both by fixation over his jump shot and attempts to examine his unique game and many strengths. Rivers faced heavy inspection for not endorsing Simmons as a player who could be a point guard on a championship team immediately after the Atlanta series. However, he often insisted in his sessions with reporters that many observers didn’t fully understand how valuable Simmons was.

“The stuff he does for us, the winning things he does, it’s hard to put into numbers,” Rivers said in January of 2020, “and unfortunately, we’re in this numbers generation where everything’s numbers. His brilliance sometimes is missed by a lot of people.”

Simmons is now part of the Sixers’ past as the team will instead revolve around the formidable Embiid-Harden duo. And boy this city can’t wait!

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