When James Harden takes the floor for the first time as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, he’ll be doing so in a new jersey number. With No. 13 hanging up in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center from Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain’s playing days, Harden will go with No. 1 for this next chapter in his NBA career, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
Harden was traded to the Sixers from the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday in a blockbuster deal that sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond back to his former team. It was a deal that was days in the making, as it was reported that Harden wanted out of Brooklyn, with Philadelphia being his primary destination, the two sides finally came to an agreement before the deadline. Harden joins a Sixers team that sits fifth in the Eastern Conference standings and has perhaps the leading MVP candidate in Joel Embiid. Harden’s scoring prowess and elite playmaking will make for a fearsome duo with Embiid, and it also ends the drawn-out Simmons saga in Philadelphia.
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Simmons hadn’t played this season for the Sixers after he requested a trade in the offseason following a disappointing end to last season’s playoffs that caused turmoil between Simmons and Philadelphia’s organization. The Sixers wanted to hold out for a trade that would net them an All-Star level player in return for the All-Defensive guard, and they landed just that in Harden, who is a former league MVP, 10-time All-Star and is capable of lighting a team up for 30-plus points on a regular basis.
It’s unclear right now when Harden’s first game will be for the Sixers, as the guard had most recently missed Brooklyn’s last four games due to a hamstring injury, but when he’s able to return his debut will be a highly anticipated one. With Harden in tow, Philadelphia should now firmly be considered championship contenders, and with the race in the Eastern Conference wide open, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sixers climb up the standings even more by season’s end. Only 1.5 games separate Philly from the No. 2-seeded Chicago Bulls, and with the Bulls standing pat at the trade deadline and missing several key contributors right now, it’s certainly plausible to see the Sixers move up the ranks.