The Houston Rockets had yet another frustrating end to their season as they failed to make an NBA Finals in the James Harden era. Their commitment to small ball and spacing fell flat, as the Los Angeles Lakers beat them down in 5 games. While it is no shame to lose to a team with two of the top five players in the game, the Rockets should have done better.
Now, they are left searching for answers to their playing style and also their head coach. Mike D'Antoni announced that he will not be returning to coach the Rockets next season. On the other side of the conference, the Philadelphia 76ers are searching for the exact same answers. They failed to make it past the First Round and must find a new head coach after firing Brett Brown. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are excellent players and bonafide All-Stars, but their pairing has not worked. The player most likely to be moved is Simmons because he simply cannot shoot from the outside to complement the inside dominance of Joel Embiid.
In order to solve both team's problems in one blockbuster deal, here is the trade package that will send James Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris.
Trade Package: James Harden, PJ Tucker, Danuel House for Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris And The First-Round Pick (Sixers via Orlando receive Thunder top-20 protected pick)
James Harden And Joel Embiid Will Be The Best Duo In The League
While the Rockets do not need to trade James Harden, he might not be too happy right now. D'Antoni helped him have his greatest years as a professional and even helped him win an MVP Award. It was D'Antoni's offense that made Harden break scoring records, climb the scoring charts, and convince everyone that he is a top-5 player in the league. James Harden thrived under D'Antoni just like Steve Nash did many years ago, and he owes him a lot for being trusted to handle the ball as much as he has.
At the same time, Harden is too good to not be playing in an NBA Finals. The Rockets came close many times, but they lacked enough support around Harden each time. Whether it was Chris Paul's injuries or Russell Westbrook's inefficiencies, Harden needed help. He has never had a dominant big man to throw the ball down to and always had to put up insane performances to help his team win. Not to mention, as the great Kobe Bryant mentioned before, the style the Rockets employ can't win championships.
The additions of Danuel House Jr and P.J. Tucker adds continuity to James Harden's playing style and the Sixers get more shooting they desperately crave. By sacrificing their franchise player in Ben Simmons, they are getting three capable shooters. House and Tucker are not household names, but they can play up to 30 minutes a game if required. Harden knows their playing style and can be the spot-up shooters that both Harden and Embiid need to spread the court for them. Tucker can defend the inside and outside at an above-average level, and House has the athleticism to continue improving at that end of the floor. Still, the key to the trade is pairing James Harden with Philly's franchise center.
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. 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 coach Mike D'Antoni, who is a major candidate for the Sixers job. With or without D'Antoni, 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.
The Rockets Rebuild With Two Capable All-Star Players
The Rockets do not want to trade James Harden. But they might have to if he becomes unhappy with failed postseason performances and lack of support around him. He lost the coach who helped earn him the MVP, and he isn't getting any younger. Russell Westbrook also looked uncomfortable as a second option and is a player who thrives with the ball in his hands. The Rockets are not expected to be scary enough contenders next season, and changes might be needed.
If the Rockets have to move on from their superstar, a return of Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris is the best possible compensation they can get. Their lineup will be immediately effective with Russell Westbrook leading the charge. A lineup of Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, and Robert Covington is an amazing small-ball lineup that can push the pace and score at will. Even if they decide to grab a big via trade or Free Agency, they can push Gordon back to the bench as a Sixth Man.
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 Russ. Even though Simmons and Westbrook 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 can play the Draymond Green role although with a much more exceptional and versatile skillset including the ability to score at the rim and be a primary playmaker. Not to mention, the First-Round pick from Philly is a protected top-20 from OKC that can be a valuable asset for Houston. Parting ways with their franchise player needs some form of compensation in the draft lottery especially since the Rockets gave up 3 First-Round picks for Russell Westbrook last year.
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. It is up to the Rockets to assess how they want to proceed moving forward, depending on Harden’s morale, because Philly has an attractive package that can benefit both teams now and in the long run.