At long last, Daryl Morey and James Harden are finally reunited. Just hours before the NBA trade deadline, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a blockbuster deal with the Nets sending James Harden and Paul Millsap to Philly in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round draft picks. Despite all the rumors over the last several weeks, the deal sent shockwaves through the league, changing the current landscape of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. 

With all the drama and uncertainty surrounding Simmons, many were down on the Sixers coming into the season (myself included). Although he has struggled in the postseason, many weren’t sure if this team would be able to withstand the rigors of an 82-game season without Simmons. Specifically, with Joel Embiid’s durability concerns, many of these doubts regarding the 76ers were warranted. Especially when you consider these facts: they play in the same conference as the defending champions and the same division as the title favorites (at least before the season started anyway), and the Eastern Conference as a whole is much more competitive this year. 

Still, without Simmons playing a single game for the Sixers this season and Embiid leading the charge, the Sixers are 11 games above .500 and sit just 2.5 games out of first place in the conference with three games left before the All-Star break. The 76ers have placed themselves in a favorable position despite ranking in the bottom ten in the league in crucial categories such as points, rebounds, and assists per game. It’s also worth noting that despite a certain All-Defensive player refusing to suit up for the Sixers, they still have a top-ten defense.

Embiid is enjoying an MVP caliber season, averaging 29.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.5 blocks in 33 minutes per game. In fact, as of Feb. 1, Vegas Insider has him as the favorite to take the award home with +200. Now he gets to play alongside the most talented teammate of his six-year career.

Harden is arguably one of the best playmakers and isolation scorers not only of this generation but all-time. He’s been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury dating back to last season and hasn’t exactly looked like the player that fans fell in love with. However, adding a player with his skillset and offensive prowess will surely do wonders for a Sixers team that averages a meager 107.7 points per game.

Other than Tobias Harris and Embiid, the Sixers have struggled to get consistent scoring on a nightly basis. Harden’s threat as a perimeter scorer coupled with his ability to attack off the dribble and his elite court vision will help open up the court and create easy looks for his teammates. The Beard and Troel should instantly become one of the most lethal pick-and-roll combinations and most exciting duos in the entire NBA. 

The former MVP doesn’t bring much to the table defensively, but neither do the players Philadelphia traded away. The fact that the Sixers obtained Harden without giving up Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle is a win. They still have their two best perimeter defenders to surround Harden with and mask some of his deficiencies on that end of the court.

No, they aren’t the outright favorites to win their conference, let alone the NBA Finals, but after swinging for the fences and pulling off this blockbuster trade, the Sixers should very well be viewed as legitimate title contenders.