James Harden Trade: Kevin Durant Will Be the Deal’s Biggest Loser if the Nets’ Gamble Doesn’t Pay Off

After weeks of denying any interest in moving James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets traded the star guard to the Philadelphia 76ers. Brooklyn finally ripped the band-aid off a situation that was only souring further as Thursday’s trade deadline approached.

Beyond the blockbuster move allowing the Nets to get out from the troubling matter, it brings aboard a potentially game-changing asset in Ben Simmons. Moreover, Kevin Durant stands to lose the most if the front office’s massive gamble doesn’t lead to championship success.

Nets trade James Harden to the 76ers

A mere few hours before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Nets pulled the trigger on moving the star guard.

Brooklyn sent Harden, Paul Millsap to the 76ers in exchange for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round draft picks. They received an unprotected 2022 first-round selection, with the right to push it to 2023, along with getting a top-8 protected 2027 first-round pick.

The draft selection will keep top-8 protection in 2028 and could turn into a second-round pick and $2 million in cash if it doesn’t convey in either year. James Harden’s contract situation will feature exercising the $47.3 million player option for the 2022-23 season, while Simmons is in the third year of his five-year, $177.2 million deal that runs through the 2024-25 campaign.

The move gives both a fresh start elsewhere, especially Simmons, as he hasn’t played since last year’s playoffs. His reputation took a significant hit after the entire offseason ordeal and his reluctance to commit to Philadelphia. He will need a few weeks to get himself ready after sitting out the first few months of the season.

Beyond all that, the move speaks more intently to the game plan of the roster around Durant.

Kevin Durant will be the biggest loser if the Nets’ gamble trading James Harden doesn’t pay off

After weeks of speculation, the Nets begrudgingly erased their lingering headache by trading away James Harden.

However, Brooklyn’s blockbuster move opens the door to a grander dilemma. Kevin Durant played a significant part in getting Harden, hoping he would lift the Nets to championship contention.

Injuries prevented that pathway despite Durant’s brilliance in last year’s playoffs, almost single-handedly pushing them past the Milwaukee Bucks. The front office was forced to move Harden after it became virtually certain he would depart in free agency.

Brooklyn avoided the disastrous outcome of Harden leaving the franchise empty-handed. However, the team is banking on Ben Simmons moving past the mental hurdles that have prevented him from taking the next step in his development.

The change of scenery and working with head coach Steve Nash could work wonders for Simmons, but the move shifts the conversation toward Durant’s perspective. The 12-time All-Star joined the Nets to vie for NBA titles, but instead, the first two-plus seasons have been filled with drama and injuries.

Durant may have several highly productive campaigns ahead, but the Nets’ roster decision-making could see his tenure unfold much differently.

Ben Simmons holds a golden opportunity to reignite his career

The three-time All-Star finally got what he desired.

The change of scenery comes the expectation to help lift the Nets toward contending for an NBA title. Durant will be the offensive centerpiece once he returns, while Kyrie Irving will operate with what he’s allowed due to his unvaccinated status.

Simmons is also walking into a situation where he won’t have a tremendous offensive burden on his shoulders but instead contribute in the areas he excels. Pressure is on the 25-year-old to provide the missing element through his passing and defensive prowess.

Meanwhile, Seth Curry will provide the Nets with much-needed outside shooting and scoring while Drummond gives them frontcourt depth and size. Brooklyn doesn’t possess much time to figure it out, but the new pieces should provide a much-needed spark.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sportscasting19.

RELATED: Ben Simmons and James Harden Are Hurtling Down a Path That Could Irreparably Damage the NBA