1. Houston Rockets trade Harden for Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, and Picks
The scuttlebutt around this trade is that Philadelphia wants to pair Joel Embiid and Harden to form the best inside-out partnership since, well, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That leaves Ben Simmons as the odd man out.
Much has been made about how Simmons and Embiid don’t fit together, and to a degree, that is true, especially on offense — but the tandem has been fantastic on the defensive end. However, Simmons is nowhere near as good as Harden on offense, and the Sixers would be insane not to kick the tires on a deal centered around Simmons and picks to land Harden.
The crucial factor will be matching salary. Harden is set to make $40 million next season, while Simmons is only on the books for $29 million. Since both teams are over the cap, neither can take on more salary, so the Sixers would have to include another player making around $10-$11 million. Luckily they have such a player in Josh Richardson, who is due to make $10.8 million next season.
The Sixers could pair Simmons and Richardson, plus draft picks from now until the 2028 election to pry Harden from the Rockets. The question is, should the Rockets bite on a deal like this? The combination of Simmons and Westbrook, two point-guards who can’t shoot, would be awkward but could offer up plenty of excitement in transition.
Simmons is 24 and could help guide the Rockets for the next decade, and Richardson is a fine player in his own right. The Rockets would be taking a step back in 2021 but would be better positioned to be relevant in 2025 than if they keep Harden and ride out this roster.
Next: Trade No. 2