2 nights ago, as a James Harden fan, I was excited to see him drop 27 points and 12 assists, combine for 61 points with Embiid and see the 2 absolutely shatter the Minnesota Timberwolves in Harden’s debut with the 76ers. Then against the Knicks today, Harden put up a 29 point triple double. But I’ve seen this before! James Harden is a generational talent that is on the Top 75 players of all time list for a reason. He is a talent that almost no one gets. But he hasn’t been able to result that talent into a championship. It will definitely be fun to see Harden lob up passes to Joel Embiid and to see this electrifying offense come to life. But, I don’t think it will work. Below is why we shouldn’t get to excited yet about the 76ers with a duo of Embiid and Harden!
Let me get this clear, James Harden and Joel Embiid on the same team is something unbelievable, something we had never thought we would get. I am really excited to just appreciate having these 2 talents on the same team. However, I think this won’t work out.
The Beard won 6th Man of the Year in 2012 with the Thunder, averaging 17, 4 and 4 per game. He was a key part on why the Thunder went to the NBA finals that year and took a game on the LeBron James led Heat team. The problem was, Harden wanted a max contract extension that offseason. The Thunder will unwilling to pay their 3rd best player that kind of money considering Durant and Westbrook—because of how they were playing—were going to be making that money. So a sign and trade happened and James Harden was sent to the Houston Rockets in exchange for some players and picks that didn’t make much of a different for OKC in the long end.
With Houston, Harden made his first All Star team in 2013 and made it every single year he was in Houston. He won an MVP in 2018 and made himself one of the top players in the NBA! He won 3 scoring titles as well. While doing this, he lead Houston to a top 3 record during the regular season in 2017 and led them to the best record in basketball by a decent amount in 2018. But he could not win in the playoffs. Harden didn’t even make the finals in Houston, the furthest he went being the Western Conference Finals in back to back seasons, one of which where he led 3-2. Harden had Chris Paul in Houston and didn’t do great with him. Once Westbrook came to town, you’d think things would change. They didn’t. Harden and the Rockets only made it to the 2nd round, winning only 1 game in that series against the Lakers. Then, Harden wanted out of Houston, before and after Westbrook was traded!
Harden was out partying while John Wall—who they got for Russell Westbrook—was becoming himself. When Harden returned, he didn’t care anymore. He was out of shape due to the partying he was doing…during the season! Harden was traded to Brooklyn in a big deal that involved important players and picks that has shaken up the NBA ever since. So now, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden on the same team! This has to work, right? Well, the answer was no. I know some people will say they were injured in their only playoffs together but I didn’t see a healthy Nets beating what ended up being the NBA champion, Milwaukee Bucks. Now this season, Irving’s vaccination status has eliminated him from games, Durant has had some injuries and so has Harden. That’s when the Beard requested another trade, this time to a different East Coast team!
And here we are, Harden on the 76ers. While some luck may have not gone his way, it is weird that Harden can play with these incredible teams, players and talents and not make a finals as a top 2 player on a team. He couldn’t win with a prime Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He couldn’t win with Chris Paul. He couldn’t win with Russell Westbrook, just a few years removed from an MVP. He couldn’t win with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in their prime. Also, when different players didn’t play with Harden anymore, they got better. Chris Paul was playing like the All Star, All NBA player he’s always been until he came to Houston where he had arguably his 2 worst seasons of his career. The very next season, Paul led the unexpected Thunder to the playoffs and made an All NBA team. Russell Westbrook was coming off 3 straight seasons averaging a triple double before he went to Houston. He then went to Houston and didn’t average a triple double and wasn’t him same self. The next season, on Washington, he averaged a triple double, broke Oscar Robertson’s triple double record and was dominating the NBA like a superstar for the final 1 and 1/2 months of the season. While Paul and Westbrook suffered minor injuries, it is weird that this happened.
So after all of this, why would Harden and Embiid work out? Think about it. Harden couldn’t win a championship while being on 2 of the most dominate Big 3’s in NBA history. So why would he win with Embiid? The Heat are back to their NBA Finals selves. The Bulls have overachieved everyone’s expectations. The Bucks are the defending champions. The Cavs are arguably the best defensive team in basketball with 2 All Stars. The Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA. And the Nets haven’t got healthy yet. Al of these teams are competing with these 2 players. This duo will be fun to watch and I appreciate what basketball has given us over these last few years when it comes to duo’s and dominate teams. Like I said, I’m a Harden fan, I want to see him succeed. But eventually, both of them will try to be the #1 and it won’t work. With the evidence that has been shown in the past, this team has been and will be fun…but they won’t win a championship! Don’t get too excited!
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