Ben Simmons trade update: 76ers prefer to wait on James Harden or other star in offseason

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Ben Simmons remains with the Philadelphia 76ers with a bit more than two weeks remaining before the NBA trade deadline, and, for the time being, it appears he’ll be staying put even longer. The 76ers are not satisfied with who’s currently available on the trade market and prefer to wait until the offseason to chase a bigger prize, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick, and confirmed by CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter. While Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Jaylen Brown remain on their radar, Philadelphia is retaining some optimism that it can finally land James Harden.

Harden is currently a member of the Brooklyn Nets, and according to Amick and Charania, when the Houston Rockets approached him when negotiating with the Nets and 76ers last season to ask about his preference in a destination, he chose the Nets. It is unclear what could have changed since then.

Landing Harden would be complicated for the 76ers on several levels. First and foremost, they would need Brooklyn to agree to a trade presumably centered around Simmons. Their interest in such an offer is unclear. They would also have to contend with the hard cap. When a team acquires a player through a sign-and-trade, it agrees not to spend above the luxury-tax apron (a figure roughly $6 million above the tax line) for any reason. Doing so with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris on the roster would be no easy task.

But Harden’s pre-existing relationship with top 76ers executive Daryl Morey has reportedly given Philadelphia hope, and according to Amick and Charania, Morey believes that Harden sees the 76ers in a positive light. Harden has never played with a big man as skilled as Embiid, and while his Nets roster is certainly built to contend for championships, it is constructed around three perimeter-oriented stars in Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Durant has suffered a number of serious injuries in recent years, and the unvaccinated Irving is not currently allowed to play home games at Barclays Center due to a New York City mandate.

Morey’s resolve is going to be tested in the coming days and weeks. Embiid is playing like an MVP right now. Trading Simmons for help right now would increase Philadelphia’s championship odds and ensure that Embiid has the best chance possible to maximize what might be the best season of his career. But the 76ers are balancing the prospect of wasting one year of Embiid’s career with his entire prime. That’s what making the wrong trade could do.

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