76ers may be willing to include Ben Simmons in a James Harden trade

The Philadelphia 76ers may be willing to include Ben Simmons in a James Harden trade.

James Harden wants out of Clutch City, and after showing up late to training camp because he was partying with rapper Lil Baby, the Houston Rockets can sense this is becoming a bad situation.

Harden had already given his list of preferred trade destinations, which consisted of the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, but the Rockets weren’t in a rush to make a move. They still held onto fading hope their offseason acquisitions of John Wall, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins could convince him to give it at least another year in H-Town, but the writing’s been on the wall since the team’s disappointing second-round exit led to general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni skipping town.

It was only a matter of time before the Rockets changed course and tried to put a deal together, and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne, it appears one of Harden’s preferred trade destinations — Philly — is changing course on a potential Harden trade as well.

The 76ers may be trading for James Harden in the near future

In the latest update on the NBA trade rumors front, ESPN reports that the Sixers may be willing to include star point forward Ben Simmons in a potential Harden deal. While the two sides are still nowhere near a deal, this is encouraging news for Houston; Simmons is easily the best player they could hope to get their hands on in a Harden trade, and up until this point, the Sixers had been holding firm on wanting to keep their superstar duo of Simmons and Joel Embiid together to see what they could do under new head coach Doc Rivers.

However, if Morey, Harden’s former GM, has changed course on that way of thinking in Philly — especially after Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his supermax with the Milwaukee Bucks, thus turning the attention of every superstar-hungry franchise to Harden — then it might not be long before we’re hearing about a Sixers-Rockets blockbuster deal. Then again, we should take this with a grain of salt, since it could very well have been leaked from the Rockets’ side to put pressure on Philly and increase competitors’ offers.

UPDATE: Following that line of thinking, the Sixers president of basketball operations fired back with his own statement of posturing, telling The Athletic’s Shams Charania that they won’t be trading Simmons. There’s the potential this back-and-forth makes a deal between the two sides even less likely now.

The ESPN report also mentions that several other playoff-caliber teams are feeling more comfortable about trading for Harden without a long-term commitment, which has opened up Houston’s potential list of trade partners. The Rockets are communicating with Harden about these scenarios, but nothing has materialized yet. In any case, it’d take an extremely grand and unexpected offer to outweigh the attraction of adding an established, young superstar like Simmons if he’s actually on the table.

The most logical potential Harden trade for Philadelphia would be Simmons, young defensive stalwart Matisse Thybulle, veteran Mike Scott and a future first-round pick for the Beard. Only time will tell if the 76ers are willing to give up what it takes to land a perennial MVP candidate, but if they are, Simmons beats anything Miami or Brooklyn could offer.