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Making sense of the Ben Simmons for James Harden rumors

There have been conflicting reports of the chances the Nets and Sixers can work out a Simmons for Harden deal before the deadline. Let's dive into everything -- what I'm hearing, how I'm interpreting the conflicting reports, and how the salary cap factors in.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest rumor across the NBA is the Sixers' pursuit of James Harden, the 2017-18 NBA MVP who spent eight seasons with Daryl Morey while both were with the Houston Rockets.

The speculation over Harden, and whether the Sixers could pursue him in the offseason, has been there all season long, with the noise getting louder in the last few weeks. That noise then became deafening when The Athletic reported that the Sixers and Nets were both willing to talk about a Harden deal now, in advance of Thursday's NBA trade deadline.

Related: all of the reporting around Ben Simmons was recapped in the newsletter sent out this morning. Check it out to get up to speed.

In preparation of what will be a week of speculation (and, if a deal isn't completed, months of speculation), let's bounce around on a bunch of topics related to Simmons and Harden, which will touch on everything from tea leaf reading, salary cap gymnastics, my own personal analysis and what I think the odds are that a deal actually comes to fruition.

Reading the tea leaves

Here's my summary of where I stand, and I'll then get into why in various sections below. This is from a combination of discussions from front office personnel around the league, including the Sixers, tea leaf reading from the various reports from other writers, along with a bit of logic applied to make sense of it all.

  • I think the Nets have significant concerns over Harden's commitment beyond this season, despite what they may be saying publicly now.
  • I think the Nets have legitimate interest in Ben Simmons as a pivot if things don't work out with Harden.  
  • I think the Nets believe if they get things together for a successful playoff run it would be tough for Harden to walk away.
  • I think the Nets believe that if things go sour, the option to flip Harden for Simmons in the summer will still be there, which means Morey will need to add more to the deal if he wants it done now.
  • I think the Sixers will absolutely not include Tyrese Maxey in a deal.
  • I think the Sixers feel strongly about their chances to land Harden in the summer.

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