NBA column above halftime: James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers

NBA column above halftime: James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers

There is probably no player with more at stake in the upcoming playoffs than James Harden. How has the 32-year-old performed for the Philadelphia 76ers so far? Let’s put it this way: it’s complicated…

James Harden has been with the Philadelphia 76ers for nearly two months and has played 18 games for his new team. The Sixers won 12 of those games, that sounds good. Harden is averaging 22 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists for Philly, who sounds like a star. He recorded 1.13 points for isolation, which sounds even better, like Superstar, like Prime Harden. The reality, however, is a little more complicated.

There have already been a few games where Harden didn’t look like him, but dove in. Everyone can have bad games, the fact that they happened several times against the top teams, which Philly also wants to belong to and against which Harden should make a difference, is regrettable to say the least.

Viewed soberly, Harden has played well so far, not exceptional. Like a star, sure, but not like the old-time superstar. Even more problematic for the Sixers, however, is that this fact doesn’t seem to lead Harden to realize that he must adjust his game accordingly.

Harden showed approaches, especially in the first few games, he looked really committed without the ball. For the moment, however, it must be said that these were exceptions. It often looks like this: the other Six do their thing, Harden does his. Philly won’t achieve its goals that way, and neither will Harden.

James Harden: You’re already doing it!

Offensively, three primary problems can be identified. The first is the one that Harden could most easily fix. We call this “standing still when he doesn’t have the ball.” This image explains it very well:

Harden is involved in the offense when he makes the decisions himself. However, once he passes the ball, he is often nothing more than a pillar of salt standing on the three-point line. And he has no shooting gravity, which seems odd given that Harden has sunk the third most three-pointers in NBA history and is one of its best shooters.

However, Harden doesn’t favor the bids he can get with this setup. For years he had no interest in catching and shooting, instead kicking after dribbling and preferring to take a step back.

Harden is doing 1.1 three per game this season without dribbling first. To put this in context: His “predecessor” in Philadelphia, Seth Curry, took nearly four of those pitches. Harden often only wants to pass or dribble when he’s at the top of the perimeter – and his opponents know that. That’s why opposing teams know that Harden poses no immediate danger as a top scorer and helps him, for example here against Embiid at the post.

The Cameroonian has plenty of experience playing 4v5 on half-court after years with Ben Simmons – but that must have ended with Harden. That’s almost negative gravity! And it would be easily avoidable if Harden showed more willingness to catch and shoot and/or more off-ball moves.

Harden has been seen as a screener in some actions, at least it’s a start. But against well-prepared playoff defenses, much more of that will be needed.

James Harden: Excellent on the ball…right?

Even with the ball in hand, light and shadow alternate at times. Harden is by far the best passer on the team, he’s already helped Embiid as well as Tyrese Maxey or Tobias Harris to a series of easy shots they haven’t had before. He is doing much better on offense, averaging 13.1 points per 100 possessions. cleaning the glass.

So it’s complaining at a high level, but it still doesn’t fully work without it. Harden is a willing passer, but he still has a tendency at times to turn his teammates into extras, as Houston has done for years. And he still likes to wave everyone to do their thing.

It’s okay once in a while as the Sixers brought you into this ability to create isolation points. It just shouldn’t be the main objective to take a step back when you have an even better option at the post that might even have a smaller opponent with you now.

Especially after the switch, Harden often came to his own conclusion rather than feeding Embiid. However, nowadays it is no longer the terror against disagreements that it was for many years. Nekias Duncan (basketballnews. with) According to Harden, he currently has 2/13 FG and 3 turnovers if he wanted to score against the Embiid defender after the trade. This is bad!