The Brooklyn Nets have had one of the most significant makeovers over the last few years. After going from a rebuilding franchise to a low-seeded playoff contender, Brooklyn immediately became title contenders following the 2019 offseason.
Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors to become the face of Brooklyn's franchise. Kyrie Irving then followed after a disappointing stint with the Boston Celtics. After one season of Irving during Durant's rehabilitation year, the Nets completed their quest of forming a big three as they landed James Harden.
As Harden grew disgruntled in Houston, he demanded the Rockets to trade him. Although the Philadelphia 76ers were ready to sell off some valuable players to land Harden, the Nets won the sweepstakes last season.
Although the Nets were favored to win the Eastern Conference, injuries derailed their chances of getting it done. While they were a shot away from sending the Milwaukee Bucks packing, the Nets fell short. The Bucks then went on to win the championship.
Once again, Brooklyn's near the top of the East while favored to win it all. As they continue thriving, the Nets have wanted to lock in their big three long-term. Irving still has a year left on his deal, so contract talks haven't heated up yet. Meanwhile, Durant inked an extension this past offseason.
Irving and Durant are on board with the Nets beyond the 2021-2022 run. Harden, on the other hand, still seems undecided. He could easily tell the team he's with them for next season by simply accepting his own player option.
A better option would be for Brooklyn to extend Harden. While they tried to do that before the 2021-2022 season started, Harden reportedly declined.
Is that a Sign for the Future?
Harden told reporters back in October that he doesn't intend to leave Brooklyn after reports surfaced that he declined an extension.
However, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein reports that people around the NBA are not convinced that's the truth.
"It must be noted that there is enough noise circulating leaguewide about Harden's reported openness to relocation this summer -- after he turned down a lucrative extension from the Nets in October -- to give Morey the encouragement he needs to wait."
Harden might not be planning to leave Brooklyn right now, but it seems there is a reality where he moves on. If that's the case, the Sixers are expected to attempt a sign-and-trade scenario with the Nets where they finally wash their hands of the Ben Simmons sweepstakes and land Daryl Morey's most notable trade acquisition during his time with the Rockets.
Right now, though, the Sixers are simply hoping that's a reality after this year. Considering a lot has to go right in order for the Sixers to get their wish, Philadelphia more than likely won't put all of their eggs in one basket and will search for alternative scenarios as the trade deadline approaches.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.