With the recent acquisition of NBA superstar James Harden, have the Sixers finally found Joel Embiid’s co-pilot?
Over the years, the Philadelphia 76ers have stood out as one of the most prominent title threats in the Eastern Conference. Behind the strong play of perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid, the Sixers seem to always be in the championship conversation but have yet to achieve their lofty goal.
Despite coaching changes, massive roster turnover, and superb playoff seeding, the Sixers have yet to capture the elusive NBA championship that they covet. Each year, the circumstances surrounding their playoff elimination are a bit different, but a common theme persists that has plagued them during the postseason- the lack of a true beta dog alongside Embiid.
In today’s league, it’s been proven that teams need two, three, and sometimes even four superstars to win an NBA championship. Long gone are the days of placing all title hopes on the shoulders of a singular all-star.
In an era dominated by superteams, Joel Embiid has been forced to do battle as a one-man army. Embiid, the runner-up for NBA MVP a season ago, has repeatedly been tasked with waging war against the superteams of the league with little to no star power on his side.
This isn’t to say that the Sixers haven’t boasted some talented teams in recent years, though. The argument could certainly be made that they boasted a top ten roster in each of the past three seasons. During that time, though, Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons were the only all-star teammates that Embiid had. Additionally, Butler and Tobias Harris are the only teammates Embiid has ever had to average 20+ PPG.
Butler, who was recently selected to the 2022 NBA All-Star roster, was arguably the closest thing Embiid had to a true beta dog. However, as we know, his time alongside Embiid was incredibly short-lived. Butler, who remains good friends with Embiid, only played 67 total games with the Sixers.
During his brief stint in Philly, though, Butler proved to be capable of elevating his game in the clutch and was the lone bright spot in the team’s heartbreaking seven-game series against the Toronto Raptors.
After reports of an alleged rift between Butler and the formerly disgruntled Sixers star Ben Simmons leaked, though, Butler was promptly traded to the Miami Heat after the season concluded. In his absence, Sixers forward Tobias Harris has tried his best to replace the beta role Butler left vacant but has left a lot to be desired as the second option in the offense.
This is why Embiid and Sixers fans alike should be so ecstatic about the arrival of newly-acquired superstar James Harden. In James Harden, the Sixers finally have someone that can alleviate some of the pressure on Embiid and help him to anchor the offense.
For far too long, Embiid has been a one-man show. Now, he will be paired with one of the most prolific scorers in league history. Replacing the offensively-incompetent Ben Simmons with a scoring threat as potent as Harden should do wonders for the Sixers.
With spacing no longer an issue, the Sixers’ offense seems primed to reach new heights. Of course, we will have to wait and see how it all translates to the court, but on paper, at least Harden and Embiid appear to be one of the most lethal duos in league history.