The Harden-Morey drama reached its apex last week, and now the two sides are officially at their breaking point, with the trade seeming inevitable now.
The Sixers were unhappy with the trade packages they received from Harden’s preferred destinations, and Harden is refusing to return to the team for the 2023-24 season.
This puts the two sides in a stand-off similar to the position the Sixers organization was in just two years ago with Ben Simmons. However, the slight difference in this situation is that Simmons never had a preferred list as Harden did. Still, after Harden’s recent comments, it is safe to say the Sixers will be expanding trade discussions to teams outside of Harden’s preferred destinations.
Harden calling Morey the way he did in such a public setting gives the Sixers every reason to disregard where he may want to go for next season and instead open trade talks to the NBA as a whole to find a suitable deal.
This is a massive advantage for the Sixers because they are no longer in the discussion where the Clippers are essentially bidding against themselves for Harden, but instead can reach out to other teams and be able to create a market again for Harden.
The team I have my eyes on the most for Harden after these recent developments is the Sacramento Kings.
The Kings broke their 16-year playoff drought last season with breakout performances by the dynamic duo of De’Aaron Fox and Domantis Sabonis. The Kings propelled themselves from a laughing stock to a top 3 seed in the Western Conference this season but fell short in Game 7 to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. The team showed great promise throughout the year but fell short because of their limited offensive diversity against the Warriors. Fox had an amazing series, but Sabonis really struggled against Draymond Green and hindered the explosive Kings’ offense. Fox could only do so much, and without Sabonis being able to dominate, they eventually fell short to the Warriors.
As great of a season as it was for the Kings, that series really exposed some issues the team would need to resolve to become the championship contenders their record from last season said they were. Fox needs help playmaking and having another initiator on the court to create shots for others. That role was typically filled by Sabonis throughout the year, but they are missing another guard who can help shoulder that load, which leads me to James Harden. Harden fills this role beautifully and would be able to play off of Fox and Sabonis in a role very similar to the one he has in Philadelphia now, which he has been able to do at an All-Star level. The Kings have the depth and young players to make a big move like this, and now it is just a matter of figuring out the right trade package.
For the Sixers, a team like Sacramento checks every box you are looking for in a trade partner: opposite conference, the cap space, and the opportunity to convince Harden to stay for multiple years.
The last part is the most important part for a trade partner engaging with the Sixers on this deal because if teams do not believe Harden is more than a one-year rental, then the Sixers will get a meager return for Harden in any deal. However, Sacramento is a promising young team with the potential to contend for championships in the state of California. It has an offensive-minded coach who would fit perfectly what Harden is looking for.
A potential trade package for Harden to the Kings would look like this:
- 76ers Receive: Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and protected 2026 1st round pick
- Kings Receive: James Harden and Danuel House Jr.
The Kings would keep their star duo and young core together while adding Harden, and the Sixers would receive much-needed shooting and wing depth. Both sides would get what they need out of these deals, and at this point in the Harden saga, Sixer fans should be ecstatic about this return compared to what most likely would come from the Los Angeles Clippers. Getting a young, elite shooter under contract for multiple seasons and a seasoned 3 and D player fills major holes in this current roster.
At this point, this obviously all just a theory, as there have not been reports linking Harden and Sacramento, but the Kings may just be the perfect trade partner for Harden.
Cheers to another summer using the trade machine, and for the sake of all Sixer fans’ mental health, I hope this is the last one for a while.
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