NBA

The Philadelphia 76ers May Have Found the $5 Million Secret to Landing James Harden

The James Harden trade rumors have really heated up in recent weeks. The Houston Rockets’ superstar is clearly unhappy with his current team, and he’s looking for a change of scenery in order to compete for an NBA title this season.

Harden recently expressed interest in joining the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, but trade talks have since stalled with both teams. The Sixers aren’t interested in dealing Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, but they may have just found the $5 million trade piece that could swing the Harden sweepstakes in their favor.

James Harden has shown interest in the 76ers

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Harden’s relationship with the Rockets has been deteriorating in recent months. He reportedly had multiple dust-ups with teammate Russell Westbrook last year, and general manager Daryl Morey left the team in the offseason. Harden made his displeasure clear when he didn’t show up for the start of training camp ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Morey has since moved on to Philadelphia, and Harden is apparently interested in joining him. Last week, Tim MacMahon and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Harden informed the Rockets he would be open to a trade with the 76ers.

It’s going to take some expert wooing from Morey if wants to land Harden via trade, though. Houston is apparently asking for a deal that includes Ben Simmons and three first-round draft picks.

The Sixers simply would never pull the trigger on that deal, but it’s possible they could put together a package enticing enough to lure Harden away without sacrificing Simmons or Embiid.

Shake Milton could be the 76ers’ key to unlocking James Harden

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Shake Milton isn’t a popular name in the NBA, but the youngster has improved exponentially heading into his third season with the 76ers. Milton played in just 20 games and averaged a modest 4.4 points per game as a rookie in 2018, but he showed some real promise in his sophomore season.

In 2019-20, Milton upped his average to 9.4 points per game in just 20.1 minutes per game. He shot 48.4% from the field and 43.0% from three. The SMU product exploded onto the scene late in the season when Philadelphia was dealing with numerous injuries across the roster.

Over the span of seven games from late February to mid-January, Milton averaged 19.4 points per game and shot better than 50% in all but two games. The run was highlighted by a 39-point outburst against the Los Angeles Clippers in which he shot 14-20 from the field and 7-9 from three.

That impressive stretch wasn’t a mirage, either. Milton is a microwave scorer who can be at worst a top sixth man off the bench in the NBA. He came off the bench to score 19 points in the Sixers’ first preseason game of 2020, and head coach Doc Rivers has been raving about him all offseason.

If the Rockets see Milton as a future star, a trade package involving the third-year player could be enough to land Harden.

What would a Harden trade package look like?

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The Rockets have asked for a king’s ransom from the 76ers in return for Harden, but Philadelphia has been adamant about keeping Simmons and Embiid. Is it possible they could put together a package for Harden that doesn’t include their two All-Stars?

If the Rockets see immense potential in Milton, he would be a valuable trade asset on his $5 million rookie deal. Tobias Harris would be an obvious add-on with his five-year, $180 million contract, and the Sixers could add a combination of Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green, and a slew of draft picks to sweeten the deal.

It’s unlikely Houston agrees to a trade that doesn’t include Simmons or Embiid, but Milton could be the secret weapon who puts the blockbuster offer over the top.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference