After the Ben Simmons era was not working, the 76ers made a considerable move and traded for James Harden. Will it pay off?
The 76ers have built numerous teams around Joel Embiid, hoping for a championship. First, they tried Jimmy Butler, built around Embiid and Ben Simmons, and now they are trying to make around Joel Embiid and James Harden. While Joel Embiid is an MVP candidate and the best player the 76ers have, the most important X factor for the Sixers is the play of James Harden.
Harden Has Had Shortcomings In The Playoffs
While Harden has had historic scoring stretches and historically significant regular seasons, he hasn’t been able to make a finals appearance since he left the Oklahoma City Thunder. While that is also because the Warriors were in the same conference, Harden’s playoff reputation isn’t ideal.
Statistically, Harden still has high averages in the playoffs, but a large chunk of Harden’s scoring comes from free throws. So it is essential he can adapt his game slightly to be still able to be productive without free throws.
In the last two playoff runs, Harden has averaged 20 points per game in 2021 and 18 in 2022. However, Harden needs to increase his efficiency and look to be more aggressive. James Harden, in his prime, was able to lead the league in field goal attempts, but now his role has completely changed. He is currently a primary passer averaging 11 assists per game. However, his scoring production will need to increase if the 76ers want to contend for a championship and be able to beat either the Celtics or Bucks.
Best Chance James Harden Has Had
Joel Embiid is the best player James Harden has gotten to play with, and while the Bucks and Celtics are the two best teams in the East, they are not as dominant as the Warriors were when Harden had to go against them. Joel Embiid is averaging 30 points per game and anchoring the 76ers’ defense. Embiid can be the best player on a championship team.
The 76ers have good three-point shooters around Embiid and scorers in Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. With Embiid being the number one option and Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey being too inconsistent to be the number two scoring options, it is all on Harden to step up as a scorer. James Harden has been a terrific passer this year, but in the playoffs, Harden will need to step up his scoring production to give the 76ers another consistent producer other than Embiid.
This is the best chance James Harden has gotten to win a championship. Harden can completely alter his legacy with a championship run, and this upcoming playoff stretch is incredibly important for his career.
If Harden can step up, the 76ers will be tough to beat in the playoffs. However, if Harden’s production declines, they likely won’t be able to make a playoff push, with players like Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris being too inconsistent to rely on. While Embiid and other role players are crucial to this run, Harden’s production can make or break their chances.
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