Should Nets be worried about 76ers’ rumored pursuit of James Harden?

The Brooklyn Nets might be in danger of losing part of their Big Three. Kyrie Irving still has one more year left on his contract and Kevin Durant signed a four-year, $198 million extension before the start of the 2021-22 season. That leaves James Harden as the lone wolf.

Harden didn’t sign an extension before the Oct. 18 deadline but he told owner Joe Tsai that he wants to spend the rest of his career in Brooklyn. Harden explicitly said the team has “nothing to worry about.” Except now it feels like the Nets do have something to worry about.

That something is Daryl Morey and Philadelphia. The Sixers president made a push for Harden while he was still in Houston but ultimately it was Harden who made it clear that he wanted to play in Brooklyn.

Here we are a little over a year later, and the rumors are as hot as ever, thanks to Ben Simmons.

Are the Brooklyn Nets in danger of losing James Harden to the Sixers?

Conveniently enough, Morey spent 14 seasons with the Rockets. He started as an assistant general manager in 2006 before working his way up to Houston’s general manager a year later.

Harden and Morey spent eight years together in Texas and there’s a chance that the two could reunite in Philadelphia this summer.

If it weren’t for Simmons, there wouldn’t be near as big of a push for Philadelphia to land Harden. The trade deadline is a little over two weeks away and the Sixers haven’t found a suitor for the 25-year-old.

According to The Athletic (subscription required), the Sixers supposedly prefer to make it past the Feb. 10 deadline and then land a big name as part of a sign-and-trade deal involving Simmons over the summer.

And when you look at Morey and Harden’s past relationship during their time with the Rockets, the chances of a reunion happening seem probable.

“It wasn’t just the on-court success that created their bond, though the perennial playoff appearances (including two Western Conference Finals) didn’t hurt. It was the way Morey empowered Harden like never before, hiring a coach in Mike D’Antoni whose system played so wonderfully to his strengths and building the roster around him throughout.”

Morey believes that Harden views Philadelphia’s situation “in a positive light.”

For Morey’s dream to come true, the Nets would have to agree to a sign-and-trade deal. Before things even get to that point, though, Harden will have the chance to opt into his player option for 2022-23, which would make him eligible for a four-year, $227.2 max extension.

If he were to opt-in, his contract with Brooklyn would then be worth $274.7 million for five years.

However, if Harden opts out, he’d be able to sign a four-year, $200.1 million max deal elsewhere. And in this case, elsewhere is the City of Brotherly Love.

The easiest (and yet most challenging) way for Brooklyn to ensure that Harden stays with the Nets would be to win the NBA Finals in June. That sounds simple, right?

The Sixers are going to try to lure Harden in by using Joel Embiid as bait. Sure, Harden hasn’t gotten to play with a big man of Embiid’s caliber, but is Embiid worth Harden passing on more time with Durant and Irving?

Not to mention, the Nets have budding young talent. Center Day’Ron Sharpe is a rookie but he’s proven that he has a real spot in Brooklyn’s rotation. Sharpe isn’t at Embiid’s level, but outside of Embiid, Philadelphia doesn’t have an advantage over the Nets.

Looking forward to the future, it’s hard to see Harden going all-in on the Sixers, especially based on what he’s said about staying in Brooklyn. Yet we can’t help but remember when Irving stood in front of Boston’s fans and told them that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Will Harden stay true to his word? If Morey has anything to say about it, Harden will be suiting up for the Nets’ conference rival next season.