There isn't a secret anymore that James Harden wants out of Houston. He showed up to training camp late and a bit out of shape, and failed to shed light on why he wants to leave the Rockets franchise. Nonetheless, the Rockets need to find the best possible return for one of the best players in the world. They made a big change by trading Russell Westbrook for John Wall, and have a pretty good squad so far.
The Philadelphia 76ers have Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid, and adding a star of James Harden's caliber would take them over the top. The only way the Rockets would accept a deal with the 76ers if Philly included Ben Simmons and 3 first-round picks. While this is a huge return, it makes sense for both teams.
Here is why the Ben Simmons - James Harden swap works for both franchises.
James Harden And Joel Embiid Will Lead Philadelphia To The Finals
The Philadelphia 76ers have made a massive addition to the coaching staff by hiring Doc Rivers. Rivers is still a great coach and a clear upgrade over Brett Brown who did not manage to improve the 76ers and specifically the duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Most likely, the duo might never work. Embiid is a fantastic big man who shot 47.7% from the field, 33.1% from three, and 80.7% from the free-throw line. On the other side, Simmons shot only 28.6% from three and 62.1% from the free-throw line. Simmons will likely never be a marksman from anywhere on the court and is limited to a few feet near the basket. With a big man like Embiid in the post, Simmons' liability from the perimeter will always be a problem.
With Joel Embiid and James Harden, Philly are the scariest team in the East. They have more talent than anybody else and will certainly make a couple of Finals appearances together. The duo simply possesses too much scoring and intangibles to not be dominant, and it will be a sight to behold. This will be even more exciting if Harden reunites with his general manager Daryl Morey, who Harden is very fond of. The Sixers will be primed for success by finally getting Joel Embiid a point guard who can also score and shoot the ball exceptionally well. Adding James Harden, a superstar who averaged 34.3 PPG and 7.2 APG, with a superstar like Joel Embiid who averaged 23.0 PPG and 11.6 RPG will be the best little man big man duo since Kobe and Shaq.
The Houston Rockets Find Their Next Franchise Player Alongside John Wall
The Rockets do not want to trade James Harden. He has single-handedly kept the franchise afloat with the best team in Houston since the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady days. Harden is a fantastic scorer and is capable of carrying a franchise on his back as he showed. However, the Rockets have not played in the NBA Finals with Harden as the leader, and the man seemingly has had enough of doing everything for the team.
If the Rockets have to move on from their superstar, a return of Ben Simmons and 3 first-round picks is the best possible compensation they can get. Their lineup will be immediately effective with John Wall leading the charge. A lineup of John Wall, Eric Gordon, Danuel House Jr, Ben Simmons, and Christian Wood or DeMarcus Cousins is still a playoff team. The Rockets can still contend in the West without James Harden, although they might have to make more moves in the offseason to build around Wall.
Even though Simmons and Wall are in the same lineup, Simmons can return to his natural position. He is a power forward who can handle the ball, defend exceptionally well, and rebound the ball. Simmons is a unique player because he can do many things on the court when he isn't scoring. Last season, Simmons averaged 16.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 8.0 APG for the Sixers while adding 2.1 SPG and 0.6 BPG. Not to mention, the first-round picks from Philly is essential for rebuilding the team after years of letting picks go.
Houston have plenty of options when it comes to their team because they are lucky enough to have a top-5 player in the game. They can continue with Harden leading the charge, or commit to changing the squad by adding a 25-year old star in Ben Simmons who is expected to make the Hall of Fame one day. By assessing the available options in the trade market, it might be Philly that can get Houston to pull the trigger on letting one of their greatest ever players leave the franchise.