Ben Simmons has been one of the most talked about basketball players not to play a game last season. To be fair, the Australian…
Firstly, the headliner deal had a few more elements to it.
It included Seth Curry and Andre Drummond for Brooklyn and Paul Millsap for Philadelphia. Brooklyn also snagged a 2022 first-round pick and a top-eight protected first-round pick in 2027.
Daryl Morey looked like Sylvester the Cat after he just swallowed Tweety Bird. He knows he won. He got his man and unloaded that troublesome non-shooter Simmons. And he has Harden now, not at season’s end. The Sixers are 35-23 and they are going for the ultimate prize.
Joel Embiid has been staring this year. He is a powerhouse in offence. He is a menace in defence. He has almost played a guard’s role, enjoyed a few triple doubles and hit the threes from way beyond the arc.
But he is probably the only player who is starring. The Sixers don’t have a real point guard. Curry was used occasionally, but he is gone.
Tyrese Maxey has been lauded for his play and is presented as a star of the future. But almost all his plays are made by him alone. His signature move is a fast layup with a final burst. His assists are relatively low. He is not a point guard.
James Harden, the prize recruit, is a point guard. His assists this season are hovering around ten per game. But I guess if you have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on tap, it should be.
He also has the three-point sharp shooters in Patty Mills and Joe Harris superbly spaced. Harden is not fast. He doesn’t break fast and deliver.
This will pretty much limit the team to a slower set play, which is quite alright for Embiid with his powerful offensive prowess and the ‘Beard’ with his step backs. But it will become very straight forward to the defenders.
Harden is famous for his three-point baskets, albeit at a bit lower volume this year. He always scored his free throws from the many fouls beyond the three-point line.
But these have been reduced after the league cracked down on angled jumps, kicking legs and deliberate drawing of fowls.
The other Harden speciality is the dribble through the key and the one-handed loop over the defender or the traditional layup.
He is consistent and will reward the Sixers. But Harden is getting old. He is unfit. He is definitely carrying extra weight.
He has a hamstring issue (not just a pretend one). All this results in a slow player becoming slower.
Philadelphia have lost the key three-pointer in Seth Curry. This will hurt. Danny Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle can hit threes but not nearly as reliably and not nearly as fast with the shot.
Millsap is short and old and looking very much like a set of steak knives.
With Drummond gone, Philadelphia have lost their back-up centre. When Embiid is benched, they are going to have go the small, fast brigade. That is not a particularly good option for Harden.
The trade was almost a shock for the Nets. The coach was insisting that James Harden was staying. Obviously Moray has Harden’s second mobile number, not Steve Nash. But Nash must be smiling at the deal.
The Nets are laden with superstar shooters but are known for their lack of defence. Ben Simmons has been taken apart by his former team and the press. But not for defence.
He is a magnificent defender to all heights and types of players. And nobody has ever complained about his fast-paced movement and pinpoint delivery to teammates.
The objection was his reluctance to jump shoot. He can keep that reservation with Durant, Irving, Nic Claxton, multiple three-point guns and dependable centres.
But hopefully he has spent six months practicing, particularly with his foul shots. Simmons has always been able to deliver next to the basket.
Patty Mills has excelled with his three-point shooting this season. He hurts teams late in matches.
Seth Curry is going to be a serious threat. He is at least as good as Mills. Joe Harris is also good and will be back from his injury. There is some serious three-point ability and depth in this team.
The Nets have been a bit low on the big-boy talent. LaMarcus Aldridge is alright, but I guess just weary.
Blake Griffin gets involved in some close-to-basket play but seems a bit short, slow, and lacking in spring.
Andre Drummond will add depth. His only issue is that his free throws are only just better than young Simmons’.
In summary, the Sixers have sold out their flexibility to get their gun scorer Harden. I can see it ending in tears.
Remember Harden still hasn’t made a commitment beyond 2022 yet. The Nets have made huge bounds with the defence.
They have a large array of scoring options being pinpointed by the fast, aggressive Simmons. Their biggest risk is the part timer Irving.
If New York don’t change their vaccination rules and they excel without him, sit him out.
The Nets have won the deal this year. The upcoming draft picks are a future bonus.
How the season and the playoffs pan out for these teams will be fascinating.
I can’t wait for the Sixers-Nets match-up. And there is sure to be a playoff series between the two teams.