Ben Simmons is reportedly “pretty ecstatic” about being left alone as NBA superstar James Harden left the Houston Rockets for the Brooklyn Nets.
The move sees the eight-time All-Star joining top dogs Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in New York in a team now overflowing with alpha personalities who like the ball in their hands.
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The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports the Nets are giving up four unprotected first-round draft picks and four first-round pick swaps to get their man in a wild deal that also involves Cleveland and Indiana.
ESPN’S Adrian Wojnarowski called Houston’s return “one of the strongest draft packages in league history”.
“Whatever the future of Kyrie Irving with the Nets, this trade does one more important thing for Brooklyn: It makes a strong case to help keep the franchise’s most important player — Kevin Durant — beyond his current contract,” Wojnarowski added.
The Rockets will also get Victor Oladipo, Aussie Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs.
But the man they won’t get is Ben Simmons.
While his offensive production has been down to start the season, Simmons has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in the NBA.
An All-Defensive first team member last season and 2018 Rookie of the Year, Simmons’ relationship with Joel Embiid has long been criticised as not being strong enough to bring a championship back to Philadelphia.
But with shooters brought into the team to allow Embiid and Simmons to operate in the paint, ESPN’s The Undefeated reporter Marc J. Spears tweeted that the Aussie believes this season is different.
“Hearing Ben Simmons was pretty ecstatic to not be traded from the Sixers to Houston for James Harden and believes his team is capable of bringing a title to Philadelphia. Doc Rivers is also a huge fan of Simmons and believes the best is yet to come with two-time NBA All-Star,” he tweeted.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic said Simmons is “fine” after the deal went down with Shams Charania reporting that Simmons was put on the trading block.
In the end, the Rockets believed “the Nets offer just supplanted that” and that the 76ers didn’t want to “mortgage their entire future” on Harden, according to Charania.
The Simmons deal reportedly had Simmons and Matisse Thybulle but the Rockets also wanted rookie Tyrese Maxey.
But CBS’s Brad Botkin, who said he didn’t believe Simmons was a franchise player but that the Aussie was the one thing the Rockets didn’t get with the big trade haul.
“It’s not a terrible bet. Still, not coming away with Simmons in a situation like this is a risk. You can pile up picks all you want and never end up with a franchise player, which some people still believe Simmons can be with the right supporting cast,” he wrote in a piece pondering if the Rockets got too greedy with the deal.
For the Nets, Harden has proved to be a divisive player with his petulant tantrum to get out of Houston.
It will also have a lot of money tied up in its best three players.
Irving, Durant and Harden all have two years left on their deals worth $34 million ($A44m), $40m ($A52m) and $44m ($57m) a season, at least $236 million ($A305m) according to The Athletic.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons said in November that a Harden trade to Brooklyn could become a “beautiful disaster.”
“It’s three guys who are used to having the ball all the time,” he said on the Bill Simmons podcast.
“Harden and Durant are really good friends from way, way back. Kyrie is somebody that likes to have the ball. I don’t know how I feel about it. It could be a beautiful disaster, or it could be absolutely devastating.”
Just yesterday, Harden slammed the franchise.
“(The Rockets are) just not good enough. Chemistry, talent-wise, it was clear,” he said in a press conference.
“I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed.”
But it bent his former teammate’s noses out of shape with DeMarcus Cousins
“Me, personally, I don’t feel betrayed at all,” Cousins said. “My interest was playing with John Wall to be brutally honest. With that being said, the disrespect started way before any interview. Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, the answers off the court. I mean, the disrespect started way before.”
And the move has also drawn a target on the Nets’ back with anything short of a championship to be considered a failure.
The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro said the offensive talents of the team could see 150 points being put on some nights – but it’s come at the expense of the side defensively.
“Taking the Bucks to seven games in an epic Eastern final won’t be enough. Falling to the Lakers in a memorable Finals? Nope. The Nets aren’t just all-in for the next 2-3 years, they are all in for the rest of the decade. Their viability exists in the here and now, defined by a simple equation: Parade or no parade?”
Only time will tell if any of these gambles will pay off.