It’s been almost a year since Ben Simmons’ holdout saga ended with a trade between the 76ers and Nets that brought James Harden to Philadelphia. That trade was one of the most scrutinized in recent memory and warranted instant grades from yours truly.
How do those grades look in retrospect, now that we’ve had a year to see how the pieces have fit on their respective teams?
Ben Simmons-James Harden trade details
76ers receive: James Harden, Paul Millsap
Nets receive: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, 2023 first-round pick, 2027 first-round pick (top-eight protected)
Original trade grades for 76ers, Nets
I was a big fan of this trade, giving both the Sixers and Nets A grades.
I liked the trade for the Sixers because they had almost no leverage, yet they still managed to get an All-Star player back. Simmons wasn’t going to play for them, and they were going to risk wasting an MVP-caliber season from Joel Embiid if they did nothing. Instead, they picked up the best player available to them.
I liked the trade for the Nets because Simmons seemed like a great defensive fit for a team that badly needed help on that end of the floor. I also praised the additional pieces, Curry and Drummond, noting that they would give the Nets some much-needed depth.
New 76ers trade grade: B+
The Sixers did look pretty good right after the trade, going 17-8 in the remainder of the regular season and beating the Raptors in the first round. But an Embiid injury that limited his availability in the second round, along with a disappearing act from Harden, spelled the end of their season. They also badly missed Curry’s secondary creation and scoring.
The Sixers did manage to get Harden to agree to re-sign on a discount following that playoff ouster, inking him to a two-year, $68.6 million deal. Harden has looked improved this season, leading the league in assists — he is not yet the official leader because he hasn’t reached the minimum requirement for games played — and raising his shooting numbers across the board from last season. He will be a borderline All-Star.
After a bad start to the year, the Sixers have turned their season around. They will have a good shot of securing home-court advantage through at least the first round of the playoffs.
Ultimately, the trade did exactly what it was supposed to from their end — get rid of a malcontent, add an All-Star so that the Sixers don’t crumble when Embiid sits and set the team up for deep playoff runs for at least another few seasons.
New Nets trade grade: B
Part of the impetus for acquiring Simmons was that he could help the Nets make some type of playoff run. But Simmons never played a single game for his new team last season, and the Nets were swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. That result has to drop the grade a bit.
As for the long-term value of Simmons, he’s been a mixed bag. He started the year off horrendously and has continued to have problems with his back and knee. On the plus side, he has begun to look more like his old self, particularly on the defensive end.
Still, Simmons’ shooting problems remain a big concern. He has attempted just one 3-pointer on the year, and he doesn’t look like he wants to get to the line. He’s shooting a career-low 43.4 percent on free throws. Shockingly, he went the entire month of December without making a single attempt.
Curry played extremely well for the Nets last season. He has taken a step back, but he remains a great shooter for them. Drummond moved on from the team last summer.
There is also more clarity on the picks involved in the trade. The Nets are looking like they will get a pick in the mid-20s from the Sixers in a fairly strong 2023 draft, in addition to a 2027 pick.
Overall, this was still a better deal than the alternative of doing nothing from Nets’ side. Harden had an opt-out in his contract that he exercised, meaning that the Nets probably would have lost him for nothing had they not traded him.
Getting Simmons, Curry and two picks back was a good value play over a probable early playoff exit had they kept Harden on the team.
Another trade winner: The Rockets
The Rockets weren’t involved in this trade, but surely they were looking on with great interest. They owned the Nets’ first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, along with pick swaps in 2023, 2025 and 2027.
The Nets finished 14-11 after the trade, shipping over the No. 17 pick in the draft at season’s end. That pick turned into Tari Eason, who has looked like an excellent energy player and tenacious rebounder midway through his rookie campaign.
The Rockets must have also been surprised to learn of Harden’s reported interest in returning to Houston. After getting so many picks by trading him back in January 2021, it would be quite the outcome to have him return to the team.
At the end of the day, this was still a beneficial trade for the Sixers and Nets. Both teams improved their short- and long-term outlooks, even if neither of the major players involved have been particularly outstanding.