When the Philadelphia 76ers traded former first-overall pick Ben Simmons for former Houston Rocket superstar James Harden, many were quick to paint the Nets as winners. After Ben Simmons refused to return to the team, the Sixers were seen as winners despite Harden playing differently than how most people saw him. However, that narrative changed again this season, with James Harden playing some of his best basketball yet.
The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t start off as hot as it could have but has turned itself around as much as possible. The Sixers currently sit at 29-16, good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. While shoutouts to perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid, a blossoming star in Tyrese Maxey, and improved shot selection from Tobias Harris have been massive for this team, a large part of their success has been thanks to superstar point guard James Harden.
This season, James Harden has been playing phenomenal basketball. In 30 games this season, The Beard has averaged 21.5 points, 11.2 assists (which ties his career high!), and 6.5 rebounds per game on 44.7/38.0/86.8 shooting splits. Not bad for someone who many believed was past his prime. On top of his excellent play, he has helped lead the Philadelphia 76ers, alongside superstar Joel Embiid to legitimate contender status. The Sixers have won 8 of their last 10 and 16 of their last 20.
Coinciding with the Sixers’ success, each and every game that Joel Embiid and James Harden play together, the two of them just get better. A lot of that has to do with Harden recognizing that Joel Embiid very well may be the best player in the league. More of that has to do with his relationship and friendship with the 76ers center.
Recently, Harden stated in an interview with ESPN that “this team is definitely the best chance I’ve had to win.” This reflects not only how high of a level he is playing at but also how much respect he carries for his teammates. Harden has turned into one of the best leaders on the team, being unselfish on and off the court. His 11.2 assists per game are the second-highest assist per game total of his career. Last offseason, Harden took a massive pay cut for the Sixers to sign players to improve the team’s depth.
James Harden is one of the best players of our generation. His scoring numbers in Houston support that. There is no way to legitimately dispute that fact. However, the way he has conducted himself in Philadelphia, as a player and teammate, may just be the biggest factor in his legacy.