Harden to Philly for Simmons and Curry: Active NBA Trade Deadline Reshapes Chase for Playoff Positioning

By Akiva Wienerkur   February 11, 2022 

Harden to Philly for Simmons and Curry: Active NBA Trade Deadline Reshapes Chase for Playoff Positioning

For the second straight season, a James Harden trade could play a major role in the race for the NBA championship.

Last season, Harden was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets in January, a few weeks before the deadline. Harden paired with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to form the latest NBA super team. And when all three were on the court together, they lived up to that billing. The problem was keeping them all healthy at the same time. All three, particularly Durant and Irving, have missed significant games due to injury. This season, Durant is out again with a long-term injury and Irving can only play in road games due to his unwillingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine. New York’s local vaccine mandate makes him ineligible to play home games.

Reports surfaced a few weeks ago that Harden was unhappy living in Brooklyn, and that he might want to change teams in the offseason. Those reports intensified with several sources telling reporters that Harden and Philadelphia 76ers general manager Darryl Morey, who was the Rockets GM when Harden was in Houston, were interested in a reunion in a reunion in the offseason.

That timeline quickly sped up as Harden’s wishes became clearer, causing constant speculation. The Sixers, with an unhappy superstar of their own in Ben Simmons, actually made sense as a trade partner as both teams were able to get All-Star-level talents in a deal. Just before Thursday’s trade deadline, the teams made things official.

Along with Harden, the Sixers acquire veteran Paul Millsap. The Nets get Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks.

The trade happened to go down when Durant was also making picks as an All-Star captain, which created some funny and awkward moments with Durant declining to talk much about Harden.

For the Sixers, they add a former MVP to their starting lineup for really only the price of Curry, since Simmons had no intention of playing this season. Harden’s presence should take pressure off of Joel Embiid, who is having an MVP-level season in his own right. Millsap should also provide some depth up front for the team.

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons warms up before game seven of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center | Sidelines
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons warms up before game seven of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Wells Fargo Center. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Simmons isn’t anywhere near the scorer Harden is, but Brooklyn should benefit from his defense and playmaking. After Durant returns, Simmons should slot right into the role Harden was playing as the team’s primary facilitator, and he should be able to create easy shots for both Durant and Irving.

Curry and Drummond will provide much-needed depth for the injury-depleted Nets, and the team also has two future first round picks to either stockpile some young talent or use in trades in the offseason.

The move probably nudges the Sixers toward favorites status in the East in the current NBA odds. The top six teams in the conference are all separated by less than five games, so Harden’s presence could help Philadelphia start to build some distance between the other teams.

The Nets are falling quickly in the standings, but if Simmons can get into playing shape quickly and Durant comes back healthy after the All-Star Break, the Nets aren’t so far out of the race that they couldn’t get back in it.

Here’s a look at some of the other significant trades made at the deadline and how they impact playoff races.

Washington Has a Busy Day

Washington Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) reacts after a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center | Sidelines
Washington Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) reacts after a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks traded Kristaps Porzingis to Washington for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans. Porzingis is a talented scorer and shot-blocker, but he’s injury-prone and he never fit well alongside Luka Doncic in Dallas. The Mavs move him for a guard in Dinwiddie who can help fill in for the injured Tim Hardaway Jr and provide depth when he returns. Bertans is struggling with his shot this season, but he’s a capable three-point shooter who could fill the role as a floor spacer more happily than Porzingis did — Porzingis often bristled as his role in the offense being reduced to simply standing on the perimeter.

Washington still has a shot at the playoffs even without Bradley Beal, and Porzingis fills a need for them in the middle, where they lack size. The Wizards also got a second-round pick from Dallas.

The Wizards also traded Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte for Vernon Carey Jr, Ish Smith, and a second-round pick.

Harrell adds even more scoring punch to the Charlotte bench and helps offset the offense they lose with Gordon Hayward injured. For Washington it removes a headache, as Harrell has clashed with teammates in recent weeks.

Portland Remakes Its Entire Roster

Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (3) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Darius Bazley (7) during the second half at Moda Center | Sidelines
Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (3) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Darius Bazley (7) during the second half at Moda Center. Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Blazers are making a last-ditch effort to keep star Damian Lillard happy with a flurry of trades that clear salary off of the books for next season and position them to add talent in the offseason.

They shipped longtime guard CJ McCollum with Larry Nance Jr and Tony Snell to the Pelicans for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, and draft picks. Then they flipped Alexander-Walker to Utah for Joe Ingles and a second-round pick. They also sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a second-round pick.

The moves should give Portland about $60 million in cap space in the offseason to pursue free agents or absorb salary in trades. They also picked up several additional draft picks that can help facilitate trades, all aimed at surrounding Lillard with enough talent to keep him happy and playing for a contending team.

The Kings Land an All-Star

Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes (40) and center Domantas Sabonis (10) smiles in the final seconds of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center | Sidelines
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes (40) and center Domantas Sabonis (10) smiles in the final seconds of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento is apparently going all-in to make a playoff push this season — even at the expense of a player they called a franchise cornerstone earlier this season.

The Kings traded young point guard Tyrese Haliburton, an efficient playmaker and shooter, to Indiana with Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson for former All-Star Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, and a second-round pick.

Sabonis is a great scorer and rebounder who should balance out the lineup a bit — Haliburton’s skillset overlapped some with De’Aaron Fox’s, so adding an interior scorer should help. Sabonis is a poor defender, though, and the team’s weakness was already defense.

The Kings also added Donte DiVincenzo from Milwaukee and Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles from Detroit in a four-team trade that sent Marvin Bagley III to the Pistons and Serge Ibaka from the Clippers to the Bucks.

The Cavs Add a Scorer

Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) dribbles the ball while Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse | Sidelines
Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert (22) dribbles the ball while Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland has surprisingly remained in contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference all season, and they get reinforcements for their playoff push by trading for Indiana’s Caris LeVert.

The team didn’t even need to take away from its current roster to do it — they sent injured reserve Ricky Rubio, who’s out for the season, and three future draft picks to add a reliable scorer and playmaker.

Several other trades were made around the deadline, including the Celtics sending Dennis Schroder to Houston and picking up Derrick White from San Antonio, Toronto adding Thaddeus Young, and the Suns bringing in Torrey Craig and Aaron Holiday to bolster their bench.

Share this story

Read more

NBA Finals Futures Odds Update at All-Star Break: 2024 Championship Favorites NBA Finals Futures Odds Update at All-Star Break: 2024 Championship Favorites
February 14, 2024
Chris Hughes

NBA Finals Futures Odds Update at All-Star Break: 2024 Championship Favorites

The NBA All-Star break is more of the two-third points of the regular season instead of the halfway mark. However, that’s fine by us because we’re always ready for it to be playoff time. Plus, with just about 30 games to play,...

Read more NBA Finals Futures Odds Update at All-Star Break: 2024 Championship Favorites