The Philadelphia 76ers have entered the last few seasons with high expectations since the completion of the “process”. The front office purchased their rights to be entered into the NBA Finals, but didn’t read the receipt regarding their trade with the Brooklyn Nets surrounding James Harden. Following a disappointing 2021-22 season for the Nets, who is to blame?
The answer clearly isn’t Joel Embiid. His performance this past season resulted in a runner-up standing for NBA MVP. Embiid, 28, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He is outspoken and certainly has his questionable moments, but the way he held the 76ers afloat from the beginning of the season is remarkable. Even when justified, he never allowed the drama surrounding Ben Simmons to deter his play or leadership. He handled the situation with character.
We also can’t blame General Manager Daryl Morey. He certainly gave up a lot to get Harden, but he maximized a terrible situation that was the Simmons situation. He acquired his star player from his days with the Houston Rockets and saw him as their best available chance to win and he was right. Unfortunately, we are a long way from Harden’s tenure in Houston. This isn’t the same player that led the league in scoring for three straight seasons, while leading his team to the playoffs on an annual basis.
Not everyone can be as durable as LeBron James while still maintaining their same level of play. Harden is still capable of being a solid contributor to any NBA team, but his days of being recognized as a superstar are officially over. Could he prove critics wrong? Was it just a nagging injury? It is difficult to say, but a lesser version of Harden in the playoffs is anything but legit.
James Harden simply can’t speed past opponents like he used to. He is also not getting the foul calls he once did. Harden can still be one of the better players in the NBA if he can establish his passing ability as his main strength, while still catching the defense off-guard when it permits.