James Harden rumors: Power ranking 3 possible outcomes for 76ers

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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James Harden (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
James Harden (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers are once again at an impasse with their star point guard. With training camp on the horizon and James Harden trade talks at a standstill, let’s power rank the potential outcomes for Philly from “let’s just skip the season” to “not complete agony.” 

The Philadelphia 76ers can’t catch a break. It’s partially their own doing, of course. If the Sixers really wanted to keep James Harden around, they could’ve paid him. Getting cheap in negotiations was probably the logical move, but this was always a possibility. Harden expected to be rewarded for the pay cut he took last season and Daryl Morey balked. It’s not hard to understand why the former MVP is a bit hurt given their relationship over the years.

Now, the Sixers must chart a path forward through familiarly foggy waters. Harden has demanded a trade and, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, he has no intention of showing up to training camp. Ask Harden’s agent, however, and he’s going to show up next season in the best shape of his career. Those two outcomes feel mutually exclusive.

Philadelphia ended Harden trade talks on Saturday and plan to bring Harden into training camp, or at least ask him to come in. If Harden takes the Ben Simmons route, well — that’s a bring we will all cross very reluctantly when it arises.

Of course, Harden has never been afraid to get uncomfortable in trade standoffs. He has a remarkable amount of recent experience in the area. He sandbagged his way out of Houston and then Brooklyn. Is Philadelphia next?

Let’s rank the potential outcomes, as unpleasant as they all may be, to figure out what exactly Philadelphia can hope for here.

Let’s just skip the season: James Harden holds out, Ben Simmons 2.0

Let’s say Harden really does hold out. There will be the unavoidable ugliness of Philadelphia enforcing fines, taking away his paychecks, and talking halfheartedly to the media about “hoping James comes back and is ready to compete.” And frankly, it would just be sad. This doesn’t happen to any other franchise. It can’t happen twice in a three-year span to Philadelphia, right?

Camp holdouts are commonplace in the NFL, but it hasn’t quite become commonplace in the NBA yet. Stars are gaining more and more executive power every year, but Harden would be plainly in breach of his contract. Unlike Simmons, who had an actually justifiable reason for holding out and taking time to himself, Harden’s holdout would read as a pure leverage play.

For the Sixers, this is the absolute hell-on-earth scenario. Harden’s trade value is already in the tank and he’s not coming back next summer. Even desperate teams at the trade deadline probably won’t shell out top value for a 33-year-old who hasn’t played competitive basketball for half a season. Especially not one with Harden’s track record of injuries, underperformance, and off-court leisure.

This leaves Philadelphia will very little to do but trade Harden for pennies on the dollar before the February trade deadline. That’s probably the endgame regardless, but this would basically ensure that the Sixers don’t have enough competitive cohesion to accomplish anything of note. It’s a wasted year of Joel Embiid’s prime and another indictment of the franchise’s inability to operate without drama and disarray.