The Philadelphia 76ers shook up the league’s landscape in a major way by trading for perennial All-Star James Harden prior to the trade deadline last month. But, before acquiring Harden, the Sixers also explored the possibility of trading for another star guard — Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Sixers “worked” on a potential Beal trade during the season, but shifted gears when Beal opted to undergo season-ending wrist surgery. From Charania:
The 76ers did their due diligence with the Wizards on Beal throughout the season, but many across the NBA say it was much more than that. Multiple sources said the 76ers worked during the season on a potential trade. Beal faced a decision on whether to force a trade out of Washington and Philadelphia had prominent interest at the deadline if he was cleared to play from his wrist injury.
The 76ers’ package would have been centered around Simmons and draft picks, sources said. Several teams beyond Philadelphia would have engaged should the Wizards have opened conversations, but that never happened. Beal ultimately did not request a trade, and underwent season-ending wrist surgery on Feb. 10, the day of the deadline.
In the end, the 76ers completed the blockbuster trade for James Harden with the Nets, a move they had been pursuing for the past year-plus and preferred among all others.
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Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey previously acknowledged that the team did indeed have another trade option that they “pretty heavily explored.” He noted that “for reasons that would reveal who I’m talking about, I can’t really say why it sort of shifted, but it shifted.”
Morey obviously couldn’t name names, but it’s pretty easy to connect the dots following Charania’s report. The Sixers were clearly very interested in Beal, but then went in a different direction once he opted for surgery that would sideline him for the remainder of the current campaign. With Joel Embiid playing at an MVP level, Morey wanted someone that could contribute at a high level in order to help Embiid this season, and he got that in Harden.
Interest doesn’t just disappear, though. If the Sixers liked the idea of adding Beal a month ago, they still do. That interest is worth keeping in mind as Beal heads for free agency over the offseason.