How will James Harden fit next to Joel Embiid on 76ers after Ben Simmons trade?

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James Harden and Joel Embiid

The trade we've all been waiting for has reportedly happened. With just under two hours to go before this season's trade deadline, news broke that the Nets have agreed to send James Harden to the 76ers for Ben Simmons.

According to reports, the 76ers will also receive Paul Millsap in the deal while the Nets will acquire Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks in addition to Simmons.

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This is one of those deals that has the potential to completely shake up the league.

For the Nets, it reshapes their roster around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, giving them one of the league's more unique players in Simmons and more depth as they pursue their first title in franchise history. For the 76ers, it gives them one of the league's best playmakers to pair with Joel Embiid, who has bulldozed his way to the top of the MVP conversation for the second season in a row.

Harden's credentials speak for themselves. A member of the NBA 75 team, he's racked up nine All-Star selections, seven All-NBA selections, three scoring titles, one assist title and one MVP award in his career. He's long been an elite bucket-getter, someone who can get 30-plus points in his sleep. He's also one of the league's best passers, though he has a tendency to turn the ball over quite a bit.

There's no doubt that Harden and Embiid will form a dynamic one-two punch. At the very least, the 76ers have two of the league's best and most punishing one-on-one scorers. Harden has led the NBA in isolation scoring in each of the last seven seasons — this is your reminder that he scored more isolation points than every other team in the league in 2019-20 — and Embiid is the league's most dominant post scorer.

Trying to guard the two of them will cause a lot of headaches, especially in crunch time, where Philly ran into some problems in the Simmons-Embiid era. Embiid and Harden are comfortable attacking pretty much anyone on an island, and any switch will open the door to one of them having a mismatch.

Additionally, while he shoots off the dribble far more than off the catch, Harden isn't someone teams are exactly willing to help off of. Safe to say, the 76ers won't run into the same spacing issues with him that they had with Simmons.

It works the other way as well. Harden has spent most of his career playing next to traditional centers who aren't threats to score outside the paint. (More on that in a minute.) Embiid still does his best work around the basket, but he's canned 36.7 percent of his 3-point attempts over the last season and a half on decent volume. He's also a knockdown shooter from midrange.

Pick-and-pops between the two of them will pack quite the punch.

Where the 76ers could run into some issues is that Harden and Embiid are used to having the offense run through them — Harden's ball-pounding ways became a growing concern in Brooklyn, per Charania — and Embiid is unlike any center Harden has ever really played with.

From Dwight Howard and Clint Capela in Houston to Nicolas Claxton in Brooklyn, Harden has shared the court with mostly lob threats at the center position who are either screening and rolling or hanging out in the dunker spot for dump-off passes and offensive rebounds. Embiid has never generated much of his offense out of pick-and-rolls, and he's too skilled of a scorer to not get all of his post touches. It will likely take them both some time to figure out how to best play off of each other.

The other end of the court is even more complicated.

Simmons has become one of the league's best defenders, finishing runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season on the strength of his ability to guard every position and wreak havoc with his go-go gadget arms. Harden grades out as a versatile defender himself, but that's because his teams tend to switch everything to cover for his weaknesses.

Philadelphia plays a drop coverage to make the most of Embiid's strengths as a rim protector, so 76ers head coach Doc Rivers will have his work cut out figuring out the best way to hide Harden defensively. Keeping Matisse Thybulle helps because it gives the 76ers a defensive stopper on the wing, but there's going to be a lot of pressure on him and Embiid to carry them defensively.

To tie a bow on all of this, the version of Harden the Nets have gotten this season isn't quite like the version of Harden we've gotten to know. He's averaging close to a triple-double with 22.5 points, 10.2 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game, but he's shooting 41.4 percent from the field and a career-low 33.2 percent from 3-point range while playing — how should we put this — uninspired defense a lot of the time.

It is concerning considering Harden is now in his early 30s, has racked up a ton of miles to this point of his career, hasn't looked quite right since suffering a hamstring injury down the stretch of last season and will almost certainly decide to become a free agent at the season's end as he pursues another max contract.

Maybe going to a 76ers team that has a much greater need for his skill set will bring the best out of Harden again, but there's no guarantee.

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Scott Rafferty is a Senior NBA Editor for The Sporting News