Harden trade makes Sixers instant contenders

 In NBA, Sports

When I first saw the James Harden news Thursday, I immediately went to LibertyBallers.com and read the comments. The fans who frequent there are pretty knowledgeable about basketball, and the writers are quite good, too.

I discovered a mixed bag of reactions. A number of posters expressed reservations about Harden’s injury issues, his lack of conditioning and his apparent decline. And some pointed out that Harden is less effective because he’s not getting the foul calls he used to.

So I was kind of on the fence about the deal, which sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first round picks to the Nets. The Sixers also received veteran Paul Millsap. I was, however, relieved Philadelphia didn’t have to surrender young, rapidly improving point guard Tyrese Maxey.

Getting on board with the move

But what swung me into supporting the acquisition was something NBA analyst Tim Legler said on ESPN. He pointed out that Brooklyn was already a championship contender. Now their top three are Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons instead of Durant, Irving and Harden. Curry and Drummond are complementary pieces.

The Sixers, however, were not a threat to win the NBA title with the roster they possessed before the trade deadline. Yes, Joel Embiid is having an MVP-type season, but there weren’t enough pieces around him. The deal for Harden changes that, Legler said, elevating Philadelphia’s postseason chances. Harden is also likely to agree on an option to play for the Sixers next season, so he won’t be a half-season rental.

Morey knows the window to win a title while Embiid is in his prime is right now, not five years from now. That’s why he made the trade. It’s high risk as well as high reward. But turning a disgruntled Simmons into Harden was the kind of bold move that could be the catalyst for a championship run.

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