The Nets have hit a six-game skid and just yesterday we were wondering if they’d dare to consider trading James Harden at this deadline. The most logical landing spot would be the Philadelphia 76ers, as Sixers president Daryl Morey seems to only have eyes for Harden. What he is offering is perhaps a blockbuster package built around an All-Star caliber player in Ben Simmons who badly wants a trade.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“With the NBA trade deadline just days away on Feb. 10, the 76ers are expected to pursue Harden in the coming days and the Nets are believed to be open to discussing a deal, sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic. There’s expectation that both the 76ers and Nets will engage in dialogue on a deal around Simmons for Harden this week, multiple sources say, with Philadelphia holding a chest of role players in Seth CurryTyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle that could sweeten a potential package.”

But why would the Nets entertain this idea? Here are 3 reasons.

3) The Nets may not think James Harden’s play-style is ideal for this group

In the bomb of a report by Shams, we got this bit of intel:

“But beyond availability, sources say there have been growing concerns over Harden’s playing style — one of dominant ball-handling and his own pace from his MVP and All-NBA days in Houston — that contrasts with the free-flowing, organic approach from his two co-stars.”

Steve Nash has talked constantly this season about wanting the ball to find the “second-side” of the court with a free-flowing style. He preaches connectivity, spirit, and many tenets which could appear to contrast with the way James Harden plays, at least after a report like this one drops.

Harden has at times this season talked about struggling to find his role on a team which has asked him to play primary initiator and facilitator. He recently alluded to “internal issues” plaguing his team on their recent losing streak.

The three-time scoring champion is second in the NBA in dimes, but his scoring is down. Maybe some of that comes into play here. If there are frustrations behind closed doors either from Harden’s side or Kevin Durant’s side, then maybe a player who doesn’t dominate the ball in half-court settings (like Simmons) could help the Nets play more of a free-flowing motion offense.

It’s hard to have a strong opinion here because Harden still fits in Brooklyn. But if he doesn’t think he does, if KD doesn’t think he does, then that might be all that matters. The Nets cannot afford to lose him in free agency for nothing because he didn’t love playing with the other two members of their superstar trio.

2) James Harden might leave the Nets in a few months, Ben Simmons is signed for 3.5 years

This one is perhaps the crux of the entire matter. If the Nets are worried that Harden no longer (or never did) see Brooklyn as a long-term home then it makes sense to at least explore trading him now. There was an article from Bleacher Report by Jake Fischer detailing some reasons Harden has “increased interest” in free agency. In that piece were things like Nash’s penchant for hot-hand lineups, rather than set closing lineups, the cost of living in Brooklyn making it hard to find a good mansion, him missing a feeling of being a “central magnate” in Houston, and some frustrations with Kyrie Irving’s part-time player status.

There are not that many teams with cap space that could outright sign James Harden; San Antonio is one if he misses Texas and their low tax rate. But it would only take one team and if he said he were definitely open to a change, we can imagine other teams would shuffle their books to make room also.

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Daryl Morey and the Sixers for example have a couple paths to max cap space. Philadelphia could trade Simmons elsewhere, and then use picks to salary dump Tobias Harris somewhere, then waive Danny Green. If Harden told them he wanted to play with Joel Embiid, the Sixers could find a way to make that happen and then the Nets would have no leverage to even land Simmons. With Durant and (presumably) Irving on the books by summer, there wouldn’t be a ton of cap-space to replace Harden if he simply left. That type of nightmare scenario is surely a big part of why they’re at least open to talks with Philadelphia now.

Sean Marks would be wise to check in again with Harden, who has apparently vowed to owner Joe Tsai he wants to remain a Net in the past. Adrian Wojnarowski recently said the Big 3 want to stay together. But if Marks senses equivocation and Kevin Durant gives his blessing, it makes sense to listen to the best possible offers.

1)  It’s possible the Nets could simply upgrade their team this season and beyond with the right trade

We touched upon the idea James Harden may not be the type of fit this team loves. Is it possible Kevin Durant saw what it was like to play alongside Harden over the last 18 months and didn’t love the idea of signing on for another 5 years of that? Harden’s fit, Hardens’ apparent (arguably precipitous) decline, and him being a flight risk creates a rather clear picture that it’s worth at least listening to the Sixers’ best offer.

But what about the idea the Nets could give this Big 3 a chance to succeed, then revisit this very idea with Philly come June?

You know, yesterday’s status quo.

The Sixers are over a barrel right now. They don’t want to pass this trade deadline without doing something to help Joel Embiid. If the Nets were forced to lose Harden in July they could return an unprecedented haul for a sign-and-trade be bringing in Simmons.

One downside would be if Harden left for a team with cap space, as we saw. The other danger would be if the Nets kept Harden but that costs them $270M. Fresh off a 4-point stinker vs. the Kings, he simply hasn’t played like a $50m player at 32, how good could you feel about him at 37 years-old making near half the entire salary cap?

Durant and Kyrie can score. Maybe you need someone to defend Giannis, and the runner up Defensive Player of the Year in Simmons signed for about half of what James Harden would command, isn’t the worst idea.

But there’s also an upside. By working with the Sixers now, the Nets might be able to wrangle more than they could in a sign-and-trade later, when teams losing stars also lose leverage.

What if the Nets could demand Ben Simmons (newly vaccinated per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and might be ready to roll within a week or two per Sam Amick of The Athletic) and Tyrese Maxey, who just made the Rising Stars team.

The Nets could say to the Sixers “look, we’re happy to give our team a shot and revisit come summer, so if you want to deal now you’d better make a godfather offer.” And maybe the Nets could land Simmons, Maxey, and draft capital. It would invoke memories of the time The Denver Nuggets fleeced The New York Knicks by leveraging the New Jersey Nets in the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster. GM Masai Ujiri and his Nuggets knew where Anthony wanted to go, and they took full advantage netting a haul worth far more than Melo, that includes Jamal Murray today.

One of the wackier scenarios would be if Harden landed in Philly for a mega haul, allowing the Nets to land Simmons and maybe make up some of the draft capital they burned acquiring The Beard. Then by July, James Harden didn’t even want to stay in Philly. If Harden presumably changed his mind about Brooklyn after just a few months, maybe he would again down the Turnpike. Brooklyn could even try to sign him back several months after fleecing the Sixers. Not likely but still, a dude who isn’t signed long-term presents risks for team-builders.

When some of the worst case scenarios they’re staring at include simply losing Harden for nothing or committing a quarter-billion dollars to a guy who may be aging quickly, and isn’t a perfect fit anyway, we understand why Marks would at least answer the call from Morey.