After yet another disappointing postseason for both the Philadelphia 76’ers and the Houston Rockets, both organizations have (mercifully for 76ers’ fans) finally let go of both of their respective coaches, which means Mike D’Antoni has become, yet again for absolutely no reason, the hottest name on the coaching carousel. It’s been reported that D’Antoni is already a shoo-in for the Sixers vacancy, however more intriguingly, there’s also been rumors flying around that Houston guard James Harden might join him and I’m here to end this nonsense once and for all.
Earlier this week, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 76ers ownership are dead set on bringing in D’Antoni has their next head coach. Shortly after, NBC Sports’ John Clark reported rumors that ownership was bringing in D’Antoni as a ploy to lure Harden to Philly.
I’m hearing one of the reasons along with coaching that Sixers have a lot of interest in Mike D’Antoni is feeling with some in organization that he could help lure James Harden to Philly
Harden can become a free agent in 2 years and there is possibility of trade pic.twitter.com/gJVecCuhHN
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 24, 2020
Let’s break this down a bit by the two avenues that could be used to get Harden into a 76ers uniform so we can hone in on how this rumor is so insanely stupid.
1) Harden is Traded To Philadelphia
Let’s just kick this in the teeth immediately.
James Harden is a former MVP, currently an MVP-caliber player and a perennial NBA All-Star. Who the hell are the 76ers going to give up for Harden?
Of course, trading both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would be absolutely insane, but consider what taking on either one of them would look like to the Rockets. Would they rather trade for a center who’s incapable of conditioning himself for the postseason in Joel Embiid or a point guard whose shooting phobia forces his game into the paint, making him constantly susceptible to injury in Simmons?
The most realistic trade scenario would likely be a package deal of Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons, both of whom are due $34.3 and $30.5 million next year, blasting the Rockets into cap space/luxury tax hell with two players who haven’t made it out of the 2nd round of the playoffs, giving the Rockets virtually zero guarantee of a championship.
2) Harden Signs With Philadelphia As A Free Agent
This is actually the scenario that the 76ers front office has in mind for bringing in Harden. The problem is that Harden’s contract is up in two years with a player option for a third year.
Where it gets really dicey for Philly is that they’d be relying on Harden to decline a third-year option that would pay him an insane $47 million. That’s a hell of a lot of table dances he’d have to give up to potentially not even sign a max deal while Embiid and Simmons eat up most of the cap.
If Harden does get a max deal, estimated at $43 million in 2022, the Sixers would definitely have to trade Simmons for a wet-ham sandwich to get rid of his contract, all while signing a fortune away to a player on the wrong end of 30 who would likely be better off re-signing for over $50 million a year in Houston.
Financially, alone, none of this adds up to a net positive for anybody.
If you consider the “basketball reasons” outlook for everyone involved, it’d paint one grim picture.
From Harden’s point of view, that would mean willing to drop yourself into an unforgiving Northeast media storm to play for a coach with a coaching style (or lack thereof) that isn’t built to win in the playoffs. For all the accolades that Harden, Steve Nash, Amari Stoudemire received under D’Antoni’s watch, none of them made it to the NBA Finals. The Rockets currently almost have a core that can potentially win, but let’s be honest, they probably won’t. If Harden’s chasing a ring, I’m fairly certain that when his contract is up, there will be other teams that will look a TON more promising than another 2nd round exit with D’Antoni.
From Philadelphia’s point of view, that would mean waiting two more years worth of mileage on Harden and praying that those two years run smoothly enough, because they’re sure a shit not going to win a title, for the Sixers to be an attractive enough option to lure Harden away from record-breaking money or even another contender.