The post-All-Star part of the NBA season is officially underway, which means James Harden will be making his debut with the Philadelphia 76ers. The star was traded from the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline on February 10 in exchange for Ben Simmons.
It’s no secret the Sixers are excited to be done with Simmons and bring in a player like Harden, who can really score. The star’s ability to stretch the floor from the point guard position gives the team something they never had with Simmons.
The Sixers aren’t just excited about Harden’s ability to score and shoot. It’s clear the team thinks he can make an impact in more than one way.
Scoring-wise Harden hasn’t been having one of his better seasons. His 22.5 points per game are his lowest since his third season in the league, which is when he was still coming off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Despite that Harden is averaging 10.2 assists per game and ranks second in the NBA in that category. His playmaking ability had the Sixers excited after their practice on Thursday.
“We know he can score, he’s always gonna get downhill, but guys got the ball a lot more than they thought,” said coach Doc Rivers. “They were wide-open and that was pretty good.”
“He’s a great passer, I think everyone knows that, but I think when you play with him, you see it more,” Rivers added. “I think Tobias and Furk today (Thursday), when they were running stuff with him, were wide-open and they were surprised by it.”
This season Furkan Korkmaz has had to play point guard at times out of necessity, because of that his three-point shooting has suffered, dropping to just 29.6% well below his career average of 35.9%.
“I think it’ll help him,” Rivers said of Harden’s presence. “I don’t think it’ll hurt him. Furk’s not a point guard so now Furk can go back to what he does and he did that today a lot. We played Furk with that unit today, Furk benefitted probably as much as anybody on the team.”
Underrated Part of Harden’s Game
Harden has always been such a prolific scorer that at times the other aspects of his game can be overshadowed. Some even feel that he can be underrated as a passer.
“For sure and his rebounding,” said Danny Green. “People forget that he does get triple-doubles quite a lot. He’s not just a guy that scores and shoots the ball, he’s very active on the floor getting rebounds, finding guys. Once he stays locked in on his effort, I think he’s gonna be great for us.”
Hearing Rivers and Green talk about Harden like this already is certainly a positive sign for the Sixers. It’s clear the team is excited to have Harden and that alone is a reason for Sixers fans to be excited for the home stretch of the season.
There will still probably be an adjustment process with Harden though. In the Harden-Simmons trade, the Sixers gave up one of their best shooters in Seth Curry, who is having a career season. How the team will fill that hole remains to be seen.
The addition of Harden and Korkmaz sliding back to the wing could be enough to neutralize that loss, but only time will tell.