Things might be a little giddy in Philly with scoring machine James "The Beard" Harden set to debut after the AS break, but what’s really in store for the title-starved Sixer faithful?
Can Harden infuse his supreme offensive skills into a harmonious relationship on the court? Will his presence be enough to down the East on the way to a ring-on-the-finger celebration?
History About to Repeat Itself?
Without a dog in the fight, I wouldn’t begrudge a Philly Sixer parade which had The Beard in one of the lead cars. That said, there seems to be a barrier, an invisible force that surrounds the aura of James Harden.
No matter who he’s paired with, it has an a-symmetrical feel about it. That same vibe seems to follow ex-teammate Russ Westbrook as well.
I get that Harden has some fluffy numbers in his postseason career, but in the biggest, most defining moments, it just hasn’t been there. As this gentleman on Twitter points out:
What's James Harden signature playoff moment?— Jason Maples (@JJMaples55_MST) February 12, 2022
Susan Storm impersonation in the NBA Finals?
NBA record for turnovers?
Team coming back from 20 with him on the bench?
Getting 30 pieced in a closeout game Kawhi sat out?
Manu cuffing his GW 3PA?
Steph 33 in a half on his head? https://t.co/wIrWGhdBrQ
And of course, he admitted his list was incomplete by adding, "I have more, I’m just literally out of characters LMAO."
"Manu cuffing his GW 3PA"
That certainly doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but….
C’mon, the Sixers are a Better Team With Harden
Statistically, that may be the case. In fact, he’s likely to make an impact along the post-season path. If so, the 76ers MAY put together a decent run with the beard chucking (and more importantly, hitting).
But do you like their chances vs the Bulls, Celtics or Heat?
Can they get by a healthy Net’s roster?
How about the Bucks?
Frankly, I’m not sure vs Chic, Bos or Mia. I’m fairly doubtful vs the Nets and Milwaukee.
The addition of Harden makes sense on paper, and yes, he should complement the roster in whole. If things go well, the Sixers could be a force.
Shipping Drummond, Curry, Simmons and picks to the Nets was a steep price, so Harden better be everything they hoped for. Third team in 3 years for James; what he does in this uniform will shift or cement his legacy.
Millsap comes in the deal, but his suitcase is gathering stickers. He’s coming off a career-worst WS (win shares) figure, along with his lowest playoff mpg. Despite that, he should be able to give them a decent 10-13 min on the court.
Philly was happy to retain Thybulle after the smoke around the Simmons trade had cleared, but "Benny" coming into his own from a mental and physical standpoint could amount to a serious score for the Net’s hopes of getting a ring.
Bottom line: JH will be 33 this year; "Time is of the Essence" should apply.
Can Harden Evolve?
The speculation on how JH will utilize his talents is a hot topic. Could JH/Embiid become a pick-and-roll powerhouse? Will JH revert to his iso pedigree? Will the shots fall when the postseason litmus test comes around?
As the late-great Kobe Bryant pointed out, Harden’s game — being impressive as it is — lacks the needed cohesiveness to take down titles:
Mamba said this about James Harden last year pic.twitter.com/YMcaxDhZx1— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) September 11, 2020
Several of Harden’s key stats declined a bit in 2021-22. Advanced indicators such as TS% (True Shooting Percentage) — which is at its lowest figure since JH entered the league in 2009, helps paint a slightly murked-up picture of just how far "Jimbo Slice" can help carry the Sixers in a competitive Eastern Conference.
It’s a stretch to think that simply adding Harden to a mix lead by Joel Embiid will equate to potential playoff success. The man who may have never met a strip-club he didn’t like must gel and play nice in Philly. On top of that, his coach Doc Rivers will have to find a way to break through after falling short many times himself.
Harden has crazy talent, but I can’t help feel with conviction that a team dependent on James is not capable of running the table.
Unfortunately, I don’t see JH sporting any jewels when he decides to ride off into his retirement sunset.
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| Title: Here’s the Thing: James Harden May NEVER Win an NBA Title!
| Author: Steven Miller
| Date: March 1, 2022