June 25, 2022


On Thursday, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that the Philadelphia 76ers had a list of roughly 30 difference-making players they would deem an acceptable return in a Ben Simmons trade, but it wasn’t fully clear which players were actually on that list. Amick named Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and James Harden, and now, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer has not only confirmed Philadelphia’s interest in Harden, but adds that Jerami Grant is another player that the 76ers are potentially targeting. 

Pompey reports that the 76ers have talked to the Pistons about a deal involving Grant, a young player, another forward and a draft pick. Kelly Olynyk fits the bill as another forward and Saddiq Bey would fulfill Philadelphia’s interest in a young player, but sources told Pompey that Detroit was unwilling to include either of them. For what it’s worth, a source close to the situation denied the Grant report to CBS Sports, and added that the Sixers aren’t interested in Grant as a return for Simmons, and that there are no ongoing talks between the two teams. 

Harden is exactly the sort of traditional star guard Philadelphia has sought. The 76ers tried to trade for him last season, and team president Daryl Morey had Harden as his franchise player when he ran the Houston Rockets. Multiple reports have now suggested that Philadelphia is interested in reuniting the pair. On paper, that appears unlikely. Harden got the trade he wanted. He is playing for a championship contender with the Brooklyn Nets. But he can become a free agent this offseason, and he hasn’t yet signed a contract extension. 

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All signs point to a new deal in Brooklyn, but if one does not materialize, Philadelphia seems to believe it would be atop Harden’s wish list. Still, the 76ers would need Brooklyn’s cooperation in a Simmons sign-and-trade, which they might not get considering their status as conference rivals, and they would also have to navigate the hard cap that triggers whenever a team acquires a player through a sign-and-trade. Doing so with three max contracts, as Philadelphia would have to do with Harden, Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris on the books, would be difficult. 

For now, there does not appear to be any end in sight for the Simmons saga. There does not appear to be a player available that lives up to Philadelphia’s lofty demands. With no obvious deal on the horizon, it might be quite some time before we see Simmons on an NBA court again.