Houston wanted Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle. According to Shams Charania, the Sixers offered a Harden trade package of Simmons, Thybulle and ‘draft compensation’. It’s unclear how much draft compensation this was, but it’s safe to assume it was markedly less than the four first-rounders and four swaps Houston ultimately received.
Philadelphia should be happy with where they are. Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP. Seth Curry, Danny Green and Tobias Harris provide necessary shooting. Trading for Harden might have raised their ceiling, but the Rockets’ demands would have cleared out the organization for years to come. The early performances of Tyrese Maxey show how fruitful even late first-round picks can be.
There would be no more Maxeys or Thybulles if the Sixers traded for Harden. Those upside, controllable players are not attainable without draft picks. Giving up Simmons, Thybulle, Maxey and draft picks was too high a price for Harden in his thirties. Daryl Morey clearly explored a deal, but being outbid by the Nets could prove to be a blessing in disguise.
The potential of Simmons, still only 24, is obvious. He’s an elite defensive player and spectacular playmaker. While Embiid and Harden has mouth-watering potential, Harden’s track record with co-stars is alarming. There’s no guarantee that partnership would have flourished long-term – Harden has disposed of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Russell Westbrook in recent seasons.
Acquiring Harden would have put immense pressure on the Sixers winning a title in 2021 or 2022. Embiid is still just 26 years old. There was no need to go all-in right now. The price, for the Sixers at least, was just too high.