After getting eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, general manager Sean Marks and the Brooklyn Nets front office had one priority during the offseason. That was to get their All-Star trio of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant inked to long-term extensions before the start of training camp. That plan failed.
Kyrie only has part-time availability due to his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Because of this, the Nets have stopped contract extension talks with him. Harden and the Nets were also unable to come to an agreement on an extension prior to the start of the season. The Silver lining is that the Nets were able to get Durant inked to a 4-year $198 million contract extension as soon as he got back from the Olympics last summer.
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Nets Could Trade James Harden for Ben Simmons
According to NBA Insider Marc Stein, Harden could be looking to move on from the Nets this summer. And the ongoing drama in Philadelphia between All-Star forward Ben Simmons and the 76ers could be the gateway that allows a Harden trade to be beneficial for both him and the Nets.
“A concept that executives with a growing number of rival teams say they see as Morey’s new preferred scenario: Keeping Simmons beyond the trade deadline to exhaust every last possibility for executing a complicated sign-and-trade in the offseason that finally brings James Harden to Philadelphia and routes Simmons to Brooklyn,” Stein writes per his Substack account
Harden is no stranger to Sixers general manager Daryl Morey. Morey previously was the general manager of the Houston Rockets and facilitated the trade that brought Harden to the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder. This was just months after the Thunder’s young trio of Harden, Durant, and Russell Westbrook led the franchise to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
“Complicated is a polite description for such a deal since the Sixers would be hard-capped by taking Harden in via sign-and-trade and would thus have to shed more salary than just Simmons’ contract according to the league’s luxury-tax rules to make it work financially,” Stein Continues.
“Yet 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.”
Nets ‘Rocky’ Season May Contribute to Harden’s Exit
Although the Nets sit in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings their season has been no walk in the park. Injuries to key Nets players such as Joe Harris and Kevin Durant have put a damper on what the Nets thought would be a championship season. Couple that with the Kyrie vaccine drama and Brooklyn looks like a much less attractive destination for stars to come play. It is also one of the reasons why Harden is keeping his options open.
“The Nets’ rocky season so far, with an unvaccinated Irving able to play only in road games after missing the season’s first 35 games and Durant now sidelined for at least a month by a freakishly unfortunate knee sprain sustained Saturday against New Orleans, hasn’t exactly quelled the notion that Harden might actually be gettable in the summer,” Stein writes.
Harden is a dynamic player, and one of the greatest offensive talents in the history of the NBA. While the Nets would much rather for “The Beard” to stay in Brooklyn, getting a player of Simmons’ caliber in exchange is a pretty good consolation prize.