In the final hours of the NBA trade deadline on February 10, the Brooklyn Nets sent All-Stars James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers, and in exchange, they received Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond. The Nets also received two first-round draft picks from the Sixers, acquiring their unprotected 2022 first-round pick, (which they elected to defer to 2023) as well as a top-8-protected 2027 first-round pick. But the Nets and Sixers both suffered disappointing playoff exits. Brooklyn was swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, and the Sixers were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
One of the keys to the Sixers’ future will be their young star Tyrese Maxey who benefitted greatly from Harden’s arrival. In an interview with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports, Maxey spoke on the impact that the Harden trade had on his significant improvement.
“When James even came in, I think I really got a clear vision of when I had to be aggressive to score and then aggressive to create for others. I think it really did help me and my game blossomed,” Maxey said.
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Maxey Sounds off on Tough Adjustments in Harden’s Arrival
Per “Fast Philly Sports”, in the 21 games that he and Harden played together during the regular season, Maxey’s points increased from 17.3 to 18.0, with his three pointers made per game increasing from 1.4 to 2.6. His field goal percentage also improved from 47.5% to 51.5% with Harden, and his 3-point percentage increased significantly from 38.7% to 50.0%. But despite having such a big jump statistically in the last stretch of the season, Maxey says that having Harden join the Sixers when he did was still a tough adjustment.
“Him coming along midseason is tough,” Maxey said to “Sports Illustrated” in May. “No training camp [together], so we had to learn a lot of things on the fly and learn how each other plays on the fly, and it happened.”
Harden Wants to Win Title With Sixers
Harden has appeared on three teams since the 2021 season, and so far, still has no championship to show for it. “The Beard” has a player option on the last year of his deal in 2023, where he can elect to opt-out and become a free agent. But the 10-time All-Star says that his goal is to bring a championship to Philadelphia.
“Yeah, We’re trying to win a championship — that’s the goal,” Harden said per Sports Illustrated. “So, whatever it looks like to continue to build, us individually, continuing to get to know each other and find out what works and what doesn’t work, things like that. I’ll be here — I’ll be here. Whatever allows this team to grow and be better and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level.”
So far, the Sixers, and Nets midseason trade has not worked out for either squad, but the story is still being written. The Nets and Sixers are both expected to be among the top contenders in the Eastern Conference in 2023. With the Nets set to have multiple key players return from injury at the start of next season, that can only increase their chances.