With training camp underway, the Philadelphia 76ers are officially beginning the long road towards (hopefully) a championship victory.
The roster looks completely retooled after GM Daryl Morey infused some much-needed talent on the bench and starting five. PJ Tucker should receive the majority of Philadelphia’s top defensive assignments, while Montrezl Harrell, De’Anthony Melton, and Danuel House should be given moments to shine with the second unit. Familiar names like Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle are still around (for now) to bring a level of experience and continuity to the roster.
But Philadelphia’s hopes for a trophy will ultimately rest on the shoulders of its stars: Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and James Harden. And the latter of those three was recently questioned in a preseason article from Bleacher Report.
Can Harden Find His Vintage Form Next Season?
In a recent article for Bleacher Report, Andy Bailey profiled each NBA team’s biggest question heading into the new season. And while Thybulle’s contract extension, a Tobias Harris trade, or Tyrese Maxey All-Star nod could have made the list for Philadelphia, Bailey cast the spotlight directly on Harden.
“No, James Harden doesn’t look quite as explosive as he was during his peak years with the Houston Rockets, but that’s a pretty ridiculous standard to hold a 33-year-old point guard to,” Bailey wrote on September 26.
“A more appropriate way to analyze Harden’s 2021-22 may be relative to others at his age.
“Last season, he became just the third player in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists in an age-32 (or older) season, joining LeBron James in 2019-20 and Russell Westbrook in 2020-21.
“If he can repeat that kind of production, he and perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid should have the Philadelphia 76ers in the title picture.”
Viewed from Bailey’s perspective, Harden was in elite company last season, despite clearly not looking like the player from his Rockets days. But the Sixers might not need that.
Offensively, the Sixers are loaded with scorers: Embiid is fresh off winning the league’s scoring title, Maxey netted nearly 43% of his threes last season, and Tucker and Harris can both exist as tertiary options on offense. What the Sixers truly need is a playmaker, which Harden showed he can be last season. It’s also a role better suited for Harden as he ages, giving him the chance to prolong his career and, by extension, Philadelphia’s title window.
Fortunately, Harden seems aligned with that goal.
Harden Wants to Win as Many Championships as Possible with 76ers
During Philadelphia’s media day on September 26, Harden took a moment to address his goals for next season and beyond.
Harden put it simply: his goal is to “win as many championships as [he] can here.”
Of course, that’s every player’s goal every season that they take the court. But Harden is a unique case: he’s been a regular season maestro but lacks the playoff resume of some of his legendary peers. In fact, some of Harden’s teams best playoff moments have come with the former MVP off the floor.
Time is running out for Harden to add a ring to his resume.