We're just a couple days away from the 2022 NBA trade deadline, and many are wondering if the Brooklyn Nets will trade James Harden for Ben Simmons. The Nets assembled the league's best trio of stars in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden, but they just haven't been able to get them on the court at the same time. Now there is the growing fear that Harden is frustrated by that fact and may seek change this offseason via free agency.

Meanwhile there have been a few other blockbuster trades already ahead of the trade deadline, and these deals have implications for the Nets' situation as they both try to win a championship this season and plan for the future. Kevin Durant is the only member of Brooklyn's Big 3 locked in for the long haul.

Tuesday's busy day of trade action kicked off with some Harden-Simmons intel from ESPN's Brian Windhorst:

“Whatever denials might exist as the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers stage a high-stakes game of NBA trade deadline chicken, sources across the league said Monday there absolutely is a chance of a James Harden-Ben Simmons trade happening before 3 p.m. ET Thursday.”

And on a podcast, ESPN's Zach Lowe talked about how one DEFCON1 Tobias Harris scenario should scare Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets.

Per Lowe:

“The thing that should scare the Nets is if they start hearing intel that the Sixers are gonna dump Tobias Harris into Oklahoma City’s cap space. Because if you dump Tobias Harris, and you take back an expiring or something and you dump some other pieces and you end up trading Simmons somewhere else, for very little money back, you do open up a cap slot that’s basically big enough for Harden’s max. And at that point, it’s DEFCON1 for the Nets….”

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With that in mind, let's look at the big trades that just went down on Tuesday.

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CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans

CJ McCollum heads to New Orleans, and the way this impacts Brooklyn isn't immediately clear, but it is important. Now that the Blazers could be in position to have a lot of cap space, they could actually make a max offer to James Harden this summer if they desire:

Of course, even if Damian Lillard recruits The Beard, he may not be persuasive enough to get him to change coasts. Still, the mere threat of a team that can credibly go after Harden should send Sean Marks into that DEFCON1 terrain Zach Lowe talks about.

If Harden went to a team with max cap space, Brooklyn would wind up empty-handed. That possibility damages what leverage the Nets have in possible talks with the Sixers.

If Marks reasoned, “We can see how our Big 3 looks for the playoffs, and come summer if Harden wants to leave we'll trade him for Ben Simmons,” the Blazers becoming a cap-space team could threaten that backstop plan.

Now a team like Philadelphia can say, “Look, you better trade Harden now, because the chances you're going to lose him for nothing later are only going up with each viable suitor.” Harden doesn't really have to have eyes for Portland. He just has to convince the Nets he would strongly consider signing there or someplace else. That might be enough to coax Marks toward a deal.

There's also the chance the Blazers go after Simmons, which would then help open up the possibility of Harden to Philly outright in free agency.

Domantas Sabonis to Kings, Tyrese Haliburton to Pacers

The next massive domino to fall was Tyrese Haliburton going to the Indiana Pacers. This was a bit of a coup by Pacers president Kevin Pritchard to get a rising star in Haliburton, along with one of the league's best shooters in Buddy Hield. Domantas Sabonis is a good player, but he wasn't moving the needle for Indy next to Myles Turner. It makes sense to look ahead, and Haliburton certainly represents a brighter future for them now.

It's hard to know what the Kings' vision is here, but they're likely chasing a play-in tournament berth. After all, Sacramento has the longest postseason drought in the NBA.

One wonders if the Nets could have somehow wrangled these good players being traded. Recently we've seen some of our top Nets trade targets in Robert Covington, Justin Holiday, and others change teams. Was Marks rebuffed? Or did they not try for one of those solid 3-and-D players?

The impact here for the Nets is that Haliburton was a player the Sixers had their eye on. Sacramento was one of the teams consistently linked to Simmons, so with the Kings losing their top trade piece, we can now effectively cross them off Morey's list. Had Simmons wound up in Sacramento, we might have been able to cross the most dangerous suitor for Harden off the board entirely. Now we cannot.

This trade implies the Sixers may be so hell-bent on landing Harden they were willing to walk away from a very fair offer for Haliburton (and likely Hield). We can deduce that because Ben Simmons appeared to have far more trade value than Sabonis:

According to Bryan Toporek of Bleacher Report and Forbes, “If we think the game of chicken between the Sixers and Ben Simmons is intense, what Philly and Brooklyn might do this summer is that on steroids.”

All of the major trades we've seen and all of the latest scuttlebutt we've heard has us thinking talks between the Sixers and Nets will only heat up over these next 48 hours. If the final hour comes and Harden is still in Brooklyn, we'll figure to hear about this steroidal game of chicken for another few months. The Nets can ignore all of the Sixers calls if they like, but if Harden leaves them in July, they might wish they hadn't.