The rumblings of a James Harden-Ben Simmons swap have grown louder and louder as the NBA trade deadline approaches. With the latest report from NBA insider Shams Charania, the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets are now open to actively engage on a potential deal.

“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, multiple sources say..”

The Sixers are clearly dead set on acquiring the Nets guard. They have both young pieces and serviceable role players to include in a potential deal along with Ben Simmons. But they’re reportedly unwilling to send all their best assets to make it happen.

According to CBS Sports’ Michaek Kaskey-Blomain, Philadelphia is making point guard Tyrese Maxey untouchable in any potential deal.

The Sixers will not include Tyrese Maxey in any potential deals with the Nets for James Harden prior to the trade deadline, per a league source with team knowledge.

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From an outsider’s perspective, it’s a little perplexing to hold out a young player – even one as talented as Tyrese Maxey is – if it prevents you from pairing MVP candidate Joel Embiid with a former MVP in James Harden.

However, it makes a lot of sense for the Sixers based on the whispers that James Harden has had a wandering eye looking straight towards Philadelphia. The Beard already has his relationship with ex-Rockets GM Daryl Morey, and has said to be in close contact with Sixers co-owner Michael Rubin. Their relationship has allegedly had rival teams worrying about possible collusion that could potentially be seen as tampering, via recent report from Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.

“Usually when there’s smoke, there’s fire. There’s another player we’re going to add to this dynamic. Michael Rubin, for those who don’t know, the Sixers co-owner – very, very, very good friends with James Harden. I’m talking to a rival owner, talking to rival front office executives who believe that there could be some talk going on now between both sides.

James Harden has yet to sign an extension with the Nets. That fact didn’t sound any alarm bells early in the season given that it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would stay. But now it’s opened the door for a possible move to the Sixers in the offseason, assuming he doesn’t get dealt at the deadline.

That possibility gives the Philadelphia an inordinate amount of leverage given that the Nets could end up losing James Harden for basically nothing. While giving up Tyrese Maxey along with Ben Simmons seems like a reasonable enough deal, the fact is that they don’t really have to.

The impetus for the Sixers is maximizing Joel Embiid this season. Yes, they can acquire James Harden in the offseason. But Joel Embiid and the rest of the roster are healthy and look like a serious threat this season, even without Ben Simmons. This could very well be their year if they add James Harden at the NBA trade deadline.

Whether both sides see eye-to-eye to make that happen remains to be seen.