Brooklyn Nets won the Simmons-Harden trade and it could propel them to win the East

Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Brooklyn Nets won by acquiring Ben Simmons and now he could help them win the East.

James Harden and Ben Simmons finally got what they wanted. Harden got his wish to move on from Brooklyn, reunite with his old general manager Daryl Morey, and team up with MVP frontrunner Joel Embiid.

As for Simmons, well, after months of not playing a single second of NBA basketball and sticking to his gut, he finally got out of Philadelphia. From that perspective, both players are winners and as a result, both teams are winners.

Philly gets a rejuvenated James Harden who’s hungry for his first championship, and Brooklyn gets Ben Simmons who’s ready to remind people just how good he is at basketball. Truly a win-win for both teams. However, it’s not that simple. Even though both teams ended up getting what they wanted, the Nets came out of this the bigger winner. How so?

Let’s break down why the Brooklyn Nets won this trade.

Why the Brooklyn Nets won the trade

The inklings that Harden wanted out of Brooklyn began during training camp. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne detailed in a brilliant story on the intense trade negotiations between these two teams that Harden reported to training campheavy and out of shape, and intrigued with the idea of free agency for the first time in his career.”

Shelburne goes on to point out that Harden was telling Nets owner Joseph Tsai and GM Sean Marks that he wanted to stay long-term in Brooklyn, but simultaneously started “canvassing player agents for advice on an eventual exit strategy to Philadelphia.”

All signs of Harden’s displeasure were evident. He had completely checked out on the organization. So, from the Nets standpoint, being able to trade Harden, who came into training camp overweight and out-of-shape, completely checked out on the organization as the season progressed, and just entered the latter stages of his career for not just Ben Simmons, a 25-year-old in the prime of his career under contract until the 2024-25 season, but also Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and TWO first-round picks.

I think it’s safe to say the Nets came out of the trade deadline a better team than they went into it.

Now, the same can be said of Philadelphia. However, it took a lot to get “the Beard.” Losing Seth Curry is a big deal. He was the Sixers’ best 3-point shooter, shooting 40 percent from downtown. He was also an underrated playmaker in Philly, averaging 4.0 assists per game. Curry was a great fit alongside Joel Embiid. His shooting ability will be greatly missed in Philadelphia and greatly appreciated in Brooklyn.

Losing Andre Drummond isn’t as big of a deal as losing Curry is, but Philly doesn’t have a reliable backup center for Embiid now. In fact, their only other center on the roster is Charles Bassey, a 6-foot-9 21-year-old rookie from Western Kentucky who many fans, including myself, have never heard of before. The Sixers will probably be on the lookout for a center on the buyout market, but for right now, the backup center position remains an issue.

Having said all of that, you still do this deal if you’re Philly. The goal is to win a championship and their championship window is now. Joel Embiid is playing at an MVP level. With his injury history, you just don’t know how long Embiid can sustain this level of play. Then, in Harden, you have a former MVP still in the prime of his career, who, by all accounts, will be a great fit alongside Embiid. The thing is though, as detailed by Ramona Shelbourne and many other NBA insiders, Harden hasn’t been in the best shape this season.

Harden is still an All-Star caliber player but watching him this year it’s clear that he’s not the MVP superstar he was in Houston and the stats back this up.

Harden’s averaging 22.5 points per game, the lowest mark since his third season in the league when he was coming off the bench in Oklahoma City. He’s shooting a career-low 33.2 percent from 3. His 41.4 percent field goal percentage is the second-lowest mark since his rookie season. And, despite his impressive 10.2 assists per game, he only has a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, averaging 4.8 turnovers per game. The numbers suggest father time is catching up to Harden.

Plus, with his lifestyle habits of not treating his body the best way as reported on by many NBA insiders, the back half of Harden’s career is not a promising one.

As for how Simmons will fit into Brooklyn, well, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Simmons could not have asked for a better situation to fall into that with the Brooklyn Nets. All of the weaknesses Simmons has — his unwillingness to develop a 3-point shot, his struggles at the foul line, his lack of aggressiveness in late-game situations — will all be mitigated in Brooklyn.

Simmons doesn’t have to change his game at all with the Nets. Leave the scoring to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Leave the spot-up shooting to Patty Mills, Seth Curry, and Joe Harris (when he gets healthy). All Simmons will be asked to do is what he had been doing in Philly since he entered the league: play elite defense, rebound, push the pace, and be a playmaker for his teammates. And as some people seem to forget, Simmons is pretty good at all of that, as he’s made three all-star teams and has been selected to two first-team all-defensive teams in the four seasons he’s played.
Essentially, Simmons will be playing a souped-up version of what Draymond Green does for the Warriors: set screens for shooters and scorers, rebound and play elite defense, push the pace and be a playmaker for his teammates.

KD and Kyrie can overcome Simmons’ shortcomings as a scorer in halfcourt and endgame situations more than any player the 25-year-old Australian has ever played with.

When Simmons screens for KD or vice-versa, defenses will be forced to switch because they are both so big which will create a miss-match for either Simmons in the post or KD anywhere on the court.

The only question for Brooklyn is health. If KD can stay healthy, Simmons is mentally ready and gets back to the court, and Kyrie can be a full-time player, then in my eyes, with those three stars and their supporting cast of Patty Mills, Seth Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Brown, Nic Claxton and company, Brooklyn should be the favorites in the East.

With both teams healthy and playing at full strength, Brooklyn is the better basketball team. Hands down. Plus, on top of that, the Nets are set up better for the future with Simmons under contract until the 2024-25 season and KD just signing an extension this past off-season.

Next. NBA Rumors: Ranking and predicting where buyout candidates will sign. dark

Brooklyn won this trade and might be laughing their way all the way to the championship if all three stars are healthy and available.