On February 10, the Brooklyn Nets traded All-Stars James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond. As part of the deal, Brooklyn also received two first-round draft picks from the Sixers. Philadelphia sent their unprotected 2022 first-round pick, but on June 1, the Nets exercised their right to defer it to 2023. They also received the Sixers’ top-8-protected 2027 first-round pick.
But the Nets haven’t gotten as much bang for their buck as they would have liked in the Harden, Simmons trade. Simmons has yet to play a game and had off-season back surgery in May. Though Seth Curry did play, he had an ankle injury before he arrived in Brooklyn, which limited him during the season and ultimately required offseason surgery. And Andre Drummond is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Zach Buckley of “Bleacher Report” says that not getting more at the deadline in the Harden trade is the Nets ‘biggest regret’ of the 2022 season.
“Despite spinning their tires for much of this season—thanks in no small part to a rash of big-name absences—they had a path to contention by virtue of rostering Durant. Still, the 33-year-old needed more help, and Brooklyn had a major trade chip to go find one in the disgruntled (but still super productive) James Harden,” Buckley writes.
“When the Nets finally sent Harden packing, their primary return was Ben Simmons, who hadn’t suited up all season and wouldn’t from that point forward, either. They also plucked a pair of first-round picks in the exchange, which could have been chips for separate exchanges, but neither was dealt. They could have even kicked the tires on a Kyrie Irving trade and arguably should have since they’re now “outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension,” per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.”
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Andre Drummond Could Return to Sixers
As he sets to hit the free-agent market at the top of the league new year on July 1, there is a possibility that Andre Drummond won’t be back with the Nets next year. One Eastern conference general manager believes that the All-Star center could have a potential reunion with Doc Rivers in Philadelphia.
“I’d say he is gone. He got their rebounding together, but they would like someone else,” the East GM said to Heavy’s Sean Deveney. “And he probably wants to go back to Philadelphia, he liked it there and they hated to have to put him in that (Ben Simmons) deal. I’d look for the Sixers to sweep and grab him if they can.”
Nets May Have Traded Harden at the Perfect Time
While there is a possibility that the Nets could have gotten more back for a 10-time All-Star in James Harden at the trade deadline, hindsight is always 20/20. From a realistic point of view, the Nets got one of the league’s best three-point shooters in Curry, and Drummond leaving Brooklyn is not a foregone conclusion. They also acquired a Defensive Player of the Year finalist in Ben Simmons.
Another thing is that if Harden already had his eyes on the Sixers before the season ended, it is highly unlikely that he would have re-signed with the Nets in free agency. And after having a playoff performance where he averaged just 18.7 points per game, would he be worth offering a long-term deal this summer? In hindsight, the Nets may have dodged a bullet by trading him when they did.