The Philadelphia 76ers are one of just a handful of teams that have a legitimate chance to contend for the NBA championship in the upcoming season. They have the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid as well as an up-and-coming guard in Tyrese Maxey, among other pieces.
Nevertheless, star guard James Harden has made his nearly-annual trade demand yet again and his future in Philadelphia is murky at best after calling Daryl Morey a liar earlier this month.
Harden wants the Sixers to move him, but it’s not that easy given his standing around the league.
NBA Insider Howard Beck sounded off on Harden’s “baffling stance” during his appearance on Audacy’s original podcast “Clap Your Hands” this week.
“James Harden is the second-best player, let’s say, key player on a team that is absolutely in the discussion to win the East every year that he and Joel Embiid are together – hasn’t been that long yet,” Beck said (3:00 in player above). “But if you are a top-level player on a top-level team still making top-level money in a major market in 2023 in the NBA, I don’t know what else you’re looking for…
“The bottom line, to me, is this is a baffling stance by a player who, to date, still has not achieved what you would believe to be his highest goals in this league and has a ticking clock. He’s 34 [on the 26th], time’s running out, and he’s asking to be traded away from the actual MVP. The standing literal reigning MVP. We don’t see this often.”
Beck mentioned that the last time we saw something like this was when Kyrie Irving requested a trade away from LeBron James. However, Irving had at least won a championship at that point and was young enough that he could create his own path or narrative.
That isn’t the case for Harden.
“The market is not exactly robust for him at the moment partially because of his age, partially because of the stage of his career that he is currently in, and partially just the fact that this is his third trade demand in two years or three years,” Beck continued. “And in every case, he’s been the catalyst for breaking up something that had some potential.”
First it was asking out of Houston where he was paired with Russell Westbrook. Then it was in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Now he’s pushing for his third trade away from a star player.
“At a certain point, the league looks at you for who you are, what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, and it’s the old ‘you are what your record says you are.’ Same for a player’s profile and his standing in the league,” Beck said. “He is who we perceive him to be: a guy who seems perpetually discontent with where he is and seems to be putting other things ahead of winning titles. If pursuit of a championship at this stage of his career were the primary goal, he should just stay where he is because he’s on one of a handful of teams that have a legit chance.”
The Sixers have the fourth-best odds to win the Eastern Conference behind Boston, Milwaukee, and Miami. Those top two teams don’t exactly have a need for Harden and the Heat would be questionable as well.
“He may go to another good situation. He may go to potentially an equivalent situation,” Beck continued. “But you’re not going to find a markedly better situation because anyone who could give you a better path probably doesn’t need you or probably doesn’t think you’d be the best fit.”