The Deal Is Done. Simmons Is Gone. What Now?

By Michael Doctorovitz, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

It has finally been done. After almost nine months of trade rumors and trash talk, overreactions and standstills, the Philadelphia 76ers have finally traded disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons. The Sixers and Brooklyn Nets pulled off a superstar swap that includes former MVP, James Harden, joining current MVP frontrunner, Joel Embiid in Philly. This trade comes at a very crucial time and just two days after a tough 114-109 loss at the hands of the league best, Phoenix Suns.

After that loss, head coach Doc Rivers was quick to tell the media "we have no choice, we need to get another guard." Well, ask and you shall receive Doc. The Sixers bring in Harden who, although is having a "down year" according to some, will be able to make an immediate impact offensively. It was also reported that the team was shopping forward Tobias Harris but kept him through the deadline. Harris has been playing his best ball lately. In the last five games, Harris is averaging 23 points and 6.4 rebounds on a very efficient 60.4% from the field. 

This trade puts the Sixers in an immediate "win now" situation. Whenever you put two MVP caliber players together in today's NBA, the expectation is to win right away. With Embiid entering his prime and playing unbelievable this season, without a co-star not to mention, the time for the Sixers to strike is now. The Eastern Conference this season is wide open and there has been no clear cut favorite. With that being said, adding Harden to a team that is currently 13-6 since January 1st, brings the Sixers much closer to their goals. Harden has not won a championship yet in his illustrious career but has been to the finals once before on a young, up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder squad that included himself alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. 

The biggest steal for the Sixers in this deal is that they were able to hold onto to rising star Tyrese Maxey and lockdown wing defender Matisse Thybulle. In the deal, the Sixers gave up sharpshooter, Seth Curry, and backup big man Andre Drummond alongside Simmons and a 2022 unprotected first round pick, with the right to defer until 2023, and a 2027 first round pick protected 1-8.

Many have already called this a terrible move and possibly the worst move of Daryl Morey's career. Others in the media believe that Morey just showed his genius in waiting for the right trade package for Simmons instead of giving him up for nothing. Who's right in this scenario? Well let's look at the facts.

Harden will be absolutely masterful in the pick and roll with Embiid, better than Simmons ever could have been due of his lack of shooting. Embiid has not played with someone this versatile in the pick and roll since the team had, now Miami Heat guard, Jimmy Butler in 2019. Harden is a step above Butler though. Harden is a better facilitator than both Butler and Simmons, although Simmons is a great passer himself but defenses could lay off of him and clog passing lanes. Harden is also a better shooter than both Butler and, obviously, Simmons which will open up spacing for Embiid to own the paint. Harden also has the ability to play off the ball much better than Simmons ever could which will give him a rest from ball handling at times and allow Maxey to flourish as he has been doing all season long. 

So what are the Sixers now and what are they moving forward towards the playoffs? Before the trade, Vegas oddsmakers had the Sixers at +1200 to win the NBA title. Those odds have now shifted to +750, which is the biggest shift for any team post trade deadline. The Nets however did also improve. Simmons will be a good facilitator and defender for a team that already has Durant and superstar Kyrie Irving, similar to a Draymond Green role for the Golden State Warriors. This puts the Nets at +140 to win the Eastern Conference and the Sixers at +475, according to Vegas oddsmakers. 

This trade is groundbreaking for the Sixers. It does not make them the clear favorite but it does increase their odds and bring some serious interest in what they could do moving forward. Harden is the best guard on a Sixers team since Allen Iverson and has already opted into his $47.3 million player option for next season as part of the deal. This puts the Sixers in a position where it feels like championship or bust. If all players stay healthy, the Sixers are looking at a starting lineup of: Harden, Maxey, Thybulle, Harris and Embiid with players like Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang and Shake Milton coming off the bench. The Sixers and Nets play at the Wells Fargo Center one month from today, March 10 at 7:30, in what could be one of the most drama filled games of all time. 

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