The Brooklyn Nets have been forced to navigate James Harden‘s trade wishes while dealing with a part-time Kyrie Irving and an injured Kevin Durant. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers have been bogged down by Ben Simmons‘ holdout all season, as the three-time All-Star has openly demanded a change of scenery.
Naturally, the two Eastern Conference rivals and hopeful contenders threw each other a lifeline just hours before the trade deadline.
Harden is heading to Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal for Simmons and more. On the surface, it appears as if all unhappy parties have gotten their wish. But there is one clear loser in all of this, as Durant is soon going to suffer from the unbearable immaturity of his two superstar teammates.
Ben Simmons is joining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets
In Jan. 2021, the NBA world exploded when Brooklyn acquired Harden from the Houston Rockets. The trio was expected to be at the heart of the league’s next great dynasty.
The Harden-Irving-Durant era has now ended just over a year later, with a lone series victory to show for it.
After rumors swirled leading up to Thursday’s deadline, the Nets and 76ers agreed to a mega-deal involving Harden and Simmons. Brooklyn is sending the bearded star, as well as veteran Paul Millsap, to Philadelphia in exchange for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round picks. The unprotected 2022 pick has an option to defer until 2023, while the 2027 pick is protected for picks 1-8 and can be pushed back as many as two years.
While Simmons’ desire to be traded was well-documented, Harden’s was a little more unknown. However, as the deadline inched closer, the former MVP did just about everything to make it known he was unhappy without standing outside of Barclays Center with a sign that read “Trade me.”
Harden is now on his third team in the last two seasons, trading in Durant and Irving for MVP front-runner Joel Embiid. As for Simmons, he should soon take the court for the first time this season and serve as Brooklyn’s primary facilitator.
Kevin Durant will have his hands full dealing with the immature Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons
When you think of the word “mercurial” and apply it to NBA players, there’s a good chance either Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons comes to mind first. So naturally, Brooklyn is teaming them up. What can go wrong?
A year ago, Durant was feeling validated by his decision to leave the Golden State Warriors. But he’s gone from mature, professional teammates in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to Irving and Simmons. From a chemistry standpoint … yikes.
KD knows all about life with Kyrie already. The seven-time All-Star is still playing in a part-time capacity due to his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Assuming New York City’s vaccine mandate remains in place, that means Irving’s selfishness will keep the Nets from reaching their full potential.
Now add Simmons, who scampered away from dealing with criticism in Philadelphia. If the 25-year-old couldn’t handle that, how is he going to fair in the relentless New York media market? How can Durant count on Simmons to face his newfound pressure and help the Nets win a title?
The short answer is, he can’t. Durant shouldn’t expect Irving to change his vaccination stance for the betterment of the team. Nor should he expect Simmons to handle criticism from teammates, coaches, and the media. Because why would they?
Instead, the 33-year-old will have to carry the Nets himself. That is, of course, unless he needs to take some time off due to the stress of managing the unmatched selfishness of his mercurial running mates.
Could Simmons be a better on-court fit than Harden for the Nets?
Even though the combination of Irving and Simmons should make Durant’s life miserable at times, winning cures all. At the end of the day, Ben and company could actually prove to be an upgrade over Harden.
Brooklyn parted with the high-scoring Harden and landed Simmons in return. While it’s widely known the 2016 top pick is not a shooter, that could work out in this case. Rather than being the second-best scoring option behind the center Embiid, Simmons is the clear number three in Brooklyn and can focus on playmaking and defense, his greatest specialties.
The Nets are also getting Curry and Drummond out of the deal. Steph’s younger brother is one of the league’s top outside shooters and adds another dimension to Brooklyn’s offense. Meanwhile, Drummond has been wildly productive on nights Embiid sits. That may not be the case here, but the Nets now have a rebounder and shot-blocker to help fill the void previously filled by Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan.
However, there is a glaring oversight when swapping Harden for Simmons. Part of what made Brooklyn so dangerous is the fact defenses would have to give Durant, Irving, and Harden equal respect — at least in the 16 games they were all together. With Simmons, defenses can focus more on locking up Durant and Irving, much like they did with Embiid in Philly. And at home with no Kyrie, it will only get worse for KD.
Harden forced Brooklyn into a corner, so good on general manager Sean Marks for at least getting a solid package in return. Though Simmons and Irving can very quickly send Durant to a breaking point for reasons beyond their basketball fit.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.