James Harden trade rumors: 76ers make Ben Simmons available, trade talks picking up

By Vincent Frank
Dec 28, 2019; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The widespread belief earlier this week was that the Houston Rockets were working from a position of strength as it relates to a potential James Harden trade. The reasoning was simple. Once the Milwaukee Bucks signed two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to a super-max extension, contending teams were left with one less elite-level talent to acquire.

Of course, none of this took into account the drama we’ve seen between Harden and his Rockets as well as the three-time reigning scoring champ’s off-court antics.

We already know that Harden has his list of preferred teams he wants to be moved to. Now, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Rockets are talking to other teams who are not currently on that list.

Related: NBA blockbuster trades that could still happen

Update: 76ers president Daryl Morey says Ben Simmons is not available. This this for what it’s worth. Right now, it’s all about leverage when it comes to a potential James Harden trade. Morey is not going to publicly state that his star forward is available without a guarantee that a trade will go through.

James Harden trade rumors: Rockets expanding list of teams they are talking to

“Several playoff-caliber teams in the Eastern and Western conferences tell ESPN that they’re finding increased comfort in committing high-level trade assets in talks to acquire Harden,” the report read. “The Rockets have ongoing discussions on several fronts and have been communicating with Harden about those scenarios.”

This is some rather interesting stuff. Any team acquiring Harden would face the possibility of losing him in free agency following the 2021-22 season. Even then, that gives said team two full seasons with the former NBA MVP on the roster.

Linked to Harden on a near never-ending loop over the past several weeks, we’re now hearing more about the Philadelphia 76ers’ level of interest in the star guard.

Related: NBA power rankings – Phoenix Suns now a championship contender

James Harden trade: Sixers make Ben Simmons available

It’s also important to note that a previous report regarding a James Harden trade suggests that Houston is demanding Simmons and three first-round picks for the former NBA MVP. Philadelphia originally wasn’t willing to part ways with either Simmons or Joel Embiid in a trade for Harden. That’s now changed.

James Harden trade for Ben Simmons?
Feb 9, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) dribbles against the Chicago Bulls during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It remains to be seen what a specific package might look like as it relates to a James Harden trade to the 76ers for Ben Simmons. However, there would have to be a lot more moving parts.

Related: James Harden trade scenarios

James Harden trade rumors: Rockets want to get a deal done as soon as possible

James Harden trade
Sep 10, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after getting called for a foul in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in game four of the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020-21 NBA regular season is slated to tip off in the matter of days. Harden will most likely be a member of the Rockets once they open their season Wednesday against his former Oklahoma City Thunder squad. Even then, there’s renewed interest on Houston’s part in getting a deal done soon.

“The Rockets are planning to start the season next week with Harden sharing the backcourt with John Wall but are exhibiting a desire to teams that they’ll move on completing a deal as soon as possible,” the above-mentioned report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne noted.

It’s anyone’s best guess what might happen on the James Harden trade front. Things seem to be at a breaking point between the two sides. Meanwhile, there’s organization-wide drama in Houston right now. One executive called it “toxic” just recently.

This seems to suggest that the Rockets will end up having to move Harden. But with the likes of the Nets, Clippers and 76ers likely out of the sweepstakes, the options are limited.

The Miami Heat are said to be interested in bringing Harden in. The Golden State Warriors put in a call prior to losing Klay Thompson for the season due to a torn Achilles. Whether they are still interested in Harden remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Giannis and the Bucks have apparently entered the fray. It’s not yet known how a package might look in that regard given how much Milwaukee gave up for Jrue Holiday in another blockbuster trade earlier this fall.

Stay tuned, this promises to get more interesting moving forward.

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