What the James Harden-Ben Simmons trade means for the Raptors

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have asserted themselves as a team capable of making some noise in the Atlantic Division, as the injury woes of the James Harden-led Brooklyn Nets and the absence of Ben Simmons on the Philadelphia 76ers helped the Raptors emerge as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, both teams decided to swap their superstars to make a title push. With Simmons refusing to play for the 76ers and Harden getting tired of the losing in Brooklyn, both sides were finally able to come together on an agreement that shook the league to the core.

The Nets agreed to trade Harden to the 76ers in exchange for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and a pair of first-round picks. With Harden doing everything short of demanding a trade in an interview, Brooklyn was able to retool and get tons of assets to help them in the short and long term.

This trade is as shocking a move as you’ll see in the NBA, but it can be argued that both teams received an immediate upgrade. For the Raptors, this deal is not good news, as they just saw their two top competitors in the East get even stronger.

The James Harden-Ben Simmons deal is bad for the Toronto Raptors.

The Nets needed to get deeper and better on the defensive end, and they did that by adding one of the most versatile pieces in the game in Simmons, an elite shooter in Seth Curry, and a solid rebounding big in Drummond. If Kyrie Irving stops being a moron and gets vaccinated, Brooklyn can reclaim their spot as title favorites.

The 76ers needed one more superstar to go alongside Joel Embiid, and they found that in Harden without giving up Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle. The Raptors have played well against Philly this year, but defending Embiid and Harden for 48 minutes is going to be tough.

The Raptors have a pair of games remaining against both of these teams this season, though they will likely have to go up against these two versions of Brooklyn and Philadelphia in the immediate future. Harden already picked up his player option for next season, and Simmons has four more years under contract.

The Raptors are building a team that could eventually go on a deep run in the postseason, but they now have two major obstacles in their path in addition to the projects over in Milwaukee and Miami. The East is cutthroat, and the Raptors’ climb back to the top got even harder after this.

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