Holding out on dealing Simmons could be the difference between whether Harden ends up in the City of Brotherly Love.
Thus far, the Sixers haven’t budged on dealing Simmons, and there are ways to get a deal done financially for Harden without moving Simmons.
That outlook could force the Rockets to trade Harden for less than he’s worth, but they won’t be quick to make such a trade with two years remaining on Harden’s contract. Trading Harden for a package that doesn’t include Simmons risks setting Houston back in a major way after already moving Russell Westbrook for John Wall.
While basketball’s analytical stats don’t always account for defense, Harden has led the NBA in win shares each of the past four seasons.