It finally happened. The 76ers and Nets have agreed to a deal centered on James Harden and Ben Simmons, with Harden and Paul Millsap going to Philadelphia, while Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond are headed to Brooklyn. The Nets also acquired two first-round picks—an unprotected one this summer and a protected selection in 2027.
Harden is reportedly opting in to his player option for next season. Simmons is under contract for three more seasons through 2025. Curry is signed for next year, while Drummond and Millsap are both on expiring minimums. Let’s grade the deal for both sides.
The Nets made the best move available to save a season—and a superstar team-up—that was in the midst of unraveling. Nobody has seen Ben Simmons play professional basketball this season. Still, on paper, he’s a perfect fit next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (when he actually plays). Simmons is a Defensive Player of the Year–caliber defender capable of picking up nearly every guard or forward as well as some centers. He won’t be asked to be the second option on offense, and he won’t even have to handle the ball when playing alongside Irving. With Kai and KD as his running mates, the Nets should offer Simmons elite spacing in a way the Sixers were never able to. That combination of lesser responsibility and better shooting should make Simmons’s life on offense significantly easier. Of course, all of this is a huge if, considering Simmons hasn’t played since his playoff meltdown against the Hawks. Even if the Nets get the guy who had existed up until that series, this is a solid move for them.
Meanwhile, Curry is a nice add here! His shooting is going to be extremely dangerous on this team, and he’ll be needed with Joe Harris out. Curry can play next to both Irving and Patty Mills, which is important due to Kyrie’s current part-time status. Those picks can be used to buttress the rotation, either in the draft or in more trades. In a vacuum, the Nets are acquiring the worse star. For all of Harden’s struggles this season, he’s at least been playing, and he’s a former MVP. But if he was determined to play with inconsistent effort and leave in the summer, Brooklyn is making a bold and worthy gamble on Simmons with this move.
If I had told you after Game 7 between the Hawks and Sixers last summer that Philly could trade Ben Simmons for James Harden, wouldn’t you have said there was no way that could happen? This is a coup for Daryl Morey, who waited out the critics (me) long enough to land the star he so desperately coveted. Is Harden a great fit next to Embiid? Unclear. Is Harden’s history of bad star partnerships and messy exits concerning? Absolutely. Ultimately, this is a star-driven league. Morey knows that better than anyone. And especially with Simmons unlikely to play another minute for the Sixers, landing Harden and losing only Curry and Drummond from your rotation seems inconceivable. The questions about on-court fit here are legitimate. (Is Embiid going to become a consistent roller? Will Harden move without the ball as well as Curry did?) As is the personality fit between Harden and Embiid, the latter of whom has really taken control of the team this season. And signing Harden to a five-year max in the summer probably won’t feel great. And yet with all that said, the Sixers feel significantly closer to a championship now than at any other point since The Process started.
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