It’s a small sample size, but since the arrival of James Harden in the three games he has played. There have been many impactful effects he has had on this Sixers team on and off the floor. Although the Sixers were winning and Joel Embiid had been playing at an MVP level, there has been such a dark cloud you could just feel at times around the team with the uncertainty of the Ben Simmons situation.
With James Harden in Philadelphia, you can feel the Sixers are in such a better space as a team, and a weight has now been lifted. Having a now conducive environment makes the player happy and freer to experience this season to its fullest in their team’s quest to win a championship. Harden not only affects the locker room with his presence, but he has also affected the team’s game on the court. Here are three notable areas that James Harden has affected since his debut with the Sixers.
The spacing of the team has been the most noticeable thing we have seen this far sense the integration of Harden into the starting lineup, something we have not seen from the Sixers in quite some time. Either it being Harden and Embiid in pick and roll, Maxey running the open floor, or even Thybulle becoming more of a threat offensively being a slasher.
James Harden has 37 assists in total, 12 assists against the T-Wolves, and 25 total assists against the Knicks in back-to-back games. Harden is averaging 12.3 assists over the last three games as a Sixer, which is first in the NBA. The team also has an overall assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.278, which is only behind the Atlanta Hawks over the past three games. The level Harden is at in his playmaking will surely help the Sixers in many ways than one and help others on the team get open looks at the basket.
Before Harden’s debut, the Sixers ran at one of the slowest paces in the NBA at 96.25, which ranked 27th in the NBA. Since the NBA All-Star break, the Sixers now are at 101.33, which is ranked ninth in the NBA. There is no coincidence that this has gone up since inserting Harden into the starting lineup. Harden, who is not the fastest or most athletic player at his position, plays and brings an incredible pace to the offense that’s been struggling to be able to get out and run in the past.
This attribute Harden brings gives such a flow to the offense that forces opponents to have to defend the full 24-second shot clock. This also brings the fast break element the team was missing prior, but now having a true floor general and playmaker like Harden, now players like Thybulle, Maxey, and even Embiid can showcase their athleticism on the open floor more that push more pressure on the opposing team.
James Harden’s arrival to Philadelphia has risen and lifted the player’s confidence in more ways than one. The joy, the passion, and just will do whatever it takes to win for this team is something James has been preaching every chance he gets, and you see the effect it has already had on his teammates in the locker room and on the court.
The belief level in Embiid was already high in the locker room, but now adding a superstar like James Harden, that is preaching the same message as the franchise player, that if you do your job, they will do theirs, resonates loudly on this Sixers team. and it shows. As this team continues to play games, the chemistry and confidence level will grow even more.
The James Harden era has started off with a bang, and although there will be challenges down the stretch of this season, I look forward o seeing this Sixer team grow and build the chemistry needed going into the postseason, ready to go out and in the city of Philadelphia a Championship.