James Harden trade: Joel Embiid could unlock new level to his game if deal goes ahead, says Mo Mooncey | NBA News

The prospect of James Harden and Joel Embiid suiting up for the same team is enough to make any NBA fan excited.

After the bombshell news about the Brooklyn Nets being open to a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers emerged on Friday, it has ignited a surge of interest ahead of the trade deadline on Thursday (8pm UK time).

But there was also another very interesting deal struck on Friday which saw the Los Angeles Clippers get Robert Covington and Norman Powell from the Portland Trail Blazers, while sending Eric Bledsoe and future assets the other way.

With all of that to sift through, we sought the thoughts of Sky Sports Heatcheck analyst Mo Mooncey to offer some perspective on Friday’s events.

What effect could a Joel Embiid and James Harden pairing have on the NBA? How would they rank in terms of a one-two punch in the league right now?

Joel Embiid (right) and James Harden discuss matters on court during a game in January 2017
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Joel Embiid (right) and James Harden discuss matters on court during a game in January 2017

Scary hours! We’ve never seen Embiid play with an elite guard, so if you think he’s great now: just think about how much easier the game will be when an opposing defense has to worry about James Harden as well.

BJ Armstrong frequently reminds me on our podcast, that every elite big man needs elite guard play to be truly successful. Shaq and Kobe, Wilt and West, Kareem and Magic … etc.

Embiid has so far yet to play with an elite guard, he’s been an MVP-caliber player with Tyrese Maxey (who in all fairness has had a very good season) so one can only imagine how much easier the game would become with Harden alongside him . It could unlock a whole new level for him. Harden’s ability to orchestrate pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop looks will also add points to Embiid’s totals without isolating him.

It will be interesting to see if Doc Rivers incorporates more Harden-Embiid pick and rolls to the offense rather than playing through Embiid in the post. Either way, you have two of the ten best players in the league on one team. If the chemistry works, they could be looking at the 2023 NBA finals. (I’m not sure if they’ll be able to figure things out in time for this years finals – but the East is wide open so who knows).

How would the James Harden trade to the 76ers, if it goes ahead, rank in the history of seismic NBA deals?

This trade would shift the power balance in the East. All of a sudden, the 76ers leapfrog the Nets in the contenders conversation and the knock-on effect could be huge. Would Kyrie still only play road games now knowing the team has lost an all-time scorer in James Harden?

Would Ben Simmons mesh well with the Nets team? Could Simmons’ defense actually help them more than the offense Harden provided when KD returns?

So many questions, I’m tired of the rumors, I want to see the drama unfold.

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Check out 2021-22 NBA All-Star James Harden’s mid-season highlights

What do you think it would take to get the deal done and do you think there is a possibility that Harden ends up anywhere other than the Sixers now?

James Harden is a free agent this summer, so no franchise will trade for him unless there’s an assurance he will re-sign there this summer. If his heart is set on Philly, that’s where he’ll be traded, no matter how appealing other trade packages might be for the Nets.

The Nets have little leverage as Harden’s contract is expiring, Simmons-plus-one of Philly’s young players or picks would be an excellent return for a player who could leave for nothing at the end of this season.

Now moving onto Mo’s thoughts on the deal which was struck between the Clippers and the Blazers on Friday.

What is thinking for both franchises behind the Clippers-Blazers trade? Who won the trade and why?

(Los Angeles Clippers head coach) Tyronn Lue wins this trade. While the financial implications of the deal can be discussed, the Clippers coach’s ability to over-perform with a squad of role players this season, given injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, has led to Steve Ballmer being willing to add another piece to the puzzle on the quest for the elusive first championship for the franchise.

Norman Powell’s another scorer who can put pressure on the rim, creating easier looks for the superstar duo when they return. Robert Covington can get back to being a very solid defender if they choose to pay him this summer as he’s an unrestricted free agent.

What needs to happen with Damian Lillard now that trade has been made?

For Portland, the emergence of 22-year-old Anfernee Simons cleared the way to take Powell’s long term contract of the books. If this is a sign of things to come, Lillard could be on the move as the Trail Blazers look to get younger and rebuild a team which is clearly not good enough to compete in its current iteration.

For Lillard, moving to that is willing to pay him a supermax contract – perhaps in a three-team deal – seems the best option.

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