The future of one of the New York Knicks’ division rivals is still up in the air. James Harden exercised his $35.6 million player option for 2023-24, but that was done so he and the Sixers could work together on a trade. That happened nearly two weeks ago, and the Harden trade front has been quiet.
Harden’s trade request has been outshined by Damian Lillard’s request to be traded from the Trail Blazers. The Dame sweepstakes could go on for the entirety of the offseason, as could Harden’s. Lillard has made his desire to join the Heat clear, while Harden could return to the Sixers for another season.
Harden attended Michael Rubin’s infamous White Party and was seen hanging out with Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Sixers owner Josh Harris, leading many to believe that he could be staying put in Philadelphia. That’s an outcome that Embiid is hoping for.
In an interview with Showtime’s Rachel Nichols, Embiid said that he hopes that Harden’s “mindset can be changed.”
What would a James Harden trade mean for Joel Embiid and the New York Knicks?
For starters, James Harden staying in Philadelphia wouldn’t give the Sixers an easy path to the NBA Finals. The 33-year-old shined in Games 1 and 4 against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals but forgot to show up in the other games, including a critical Game 7.
He’s still in search of his first championship, which is why he was heralded for taking a pay cut last season so that the Sixers could have more flexibility to make moves on the free agent market. Philadelphia was building what it hoped would be a championship team, but instead, the Sixers once again failed to even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Like New York, Philadelphia didn’t have a pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and doesn’t have the cap space to make championship-level moves this offseason. The Sixers are desperately trying to put together a worthy roster around the 2022-23 NBA MVP, and swaying Harden to stay in Philadelphia would seemingly satisfy Embiid.
If Harden is traded, perhaps a rocky 2023-24 season for the Sixers might mean that Embiid could request a trade himself next offseason. That’s a situation that the Knicks would love, although it’s fair from being guaranteed.
Whether Joel Embiid and Philadelphia are able to convince James Harden to hang around or not, don’t count on the Sixers making a deep playoff run.