When Daryl Morey joined the Philadelphia 76ers' front office last year, he was coming off of a longtime run with the Houston Rockets. While Morey made many moves in Houston, his James Harden acquisition remains his most significant roster upgrade.
After leaving Houston and joining the Sixers' front office, Morey attempted to trade for Harden for the second time in his career. As Harden grew disgruntled with the Rockets' organization and requested a trade, the Sixers were one of the top teams in the Harden sweepstakes.
However, when it was all said and done, the Sixers came up empty-handed. And the Brooklyn Nets landed the former MVP instead. There are mixed messages whether the Sixers truly had a shot to land Harden or not, considering Houston's frustration with Morey.
But one thing was certainly clear; the Sixers wanted Harden and were willing to move on from their former first-overall pick Ben Simmons and more to get him.
As there is a chance Harden could become available once again this summer, the Sixers are in a similar situation since it's believed they want to hold out hope for a possible Simmons-Harden swap once again.
The Good News... And the Bad News
Is there a realistic chance the Sixers could land James Harden this summer? You can never say never when it comes to the NBA trade market. Typically, where there is smoke, there is fire. But this situation could get complicated as many factors have to fall in place for the Sixers in order for a Simmons-Harden swap to happen finally.
The good news for the Sixers? James Harden reportedly rejected an extension offer from the Nets during the offseason. While Harden threw cold water on the idea that he rejected the offer because he will leave after this season, it's still a notable decision.
The bad news for the Sixers? Harden preferred the Brooklyn Nets all along. While it was reported many times last season that Harden was open to the idea of linking up with Joel Embiid on the Sixers, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick of The Athletic report that Harden had a choice between Brooklyn and Philadelphia. He chose the former.
"With both final offers in hand on the morning of Jan. 13, 2021, sources say Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta approached Harden about which destination he preferred: Brooklyn or Philadelphia. The choice was his – sort of.
Harden chose Brooklyn, but it remains unclear whether Fertitta would have been willing to follow through on the Sixers deal if Harden had opted for Philadelphia.
There was a sense of relief from Fertitta, sources say, that Harden had picked the Nets. It made the deal that much easier and less problematic to complete. Houston finalized the Nets’ blockbuster that included four first-round picks and four draft swaps."
The idea that Harden preferred Brooklyn isn't a good sign for the Sixers, who plan to pursue the veteran guard this summer.
While Harden's mindset could undoubtedly change, the direction of the Nets' franchise isn't exactly pushing anybody away from the organization.
Sure, the Nets found themselves out of the playoffs around the same time as the Sixers last season, but injuries piled up for Brooklyn and ultimately left the fate of their season in Kevin Durant's hands. And even though Durant and Brooklyn came up short against the Milwaukee Bucks, they nearly pulled off the upset.
This year, the Nets have dealt with many obstacles, but that hasn't affected their progress. With a 29-17 record, Brooklyn is half a game out from the Eastern Conference's first seed. There is still a lot of basketball left to be played, but the Nets remain the favorites in the East.
Harden's future in Brooklyn likely relies on how far the Nets can go. If they come up short once again, then that'll be good news for the Sixers' pursuit of Haden. If the Nets make a run for the title, then the Sixers could very well be left scrambling for a blockbuster deal with another team.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.