James Harden’s impact on Maxey, Thybulle, and hopefully Harris
The addition of James Harden has brought a new edge to the 76ers, as his elite playmaking ability heightens the offense to a whole new level. While much of the warranted attention has gone to the synergy between Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Beard has also meshed well with a couple of other 76ers.
There is no better place to start than with Tyrese Maxey. Outside of Embiid, nobody on the 76ers has been able to compliment Harden like the sophomore from Kentucky. Maxey has always been the spark plug for a team that enjoys slowing down the game. With Harden by his side Maxey has been able to flourish with more open space created by Harden’s offensive presence.
The stats for Maxey only support his heightened play alongside Harden. Maxey has scored 49 points on 20-30 shooting from the field in his first two games with the Beard. That includes knocking down five of his eight triples with a majority of them coming as catch-and-shoot threes from a Harden kick out. Maxey’s offensive explosion over the past two games has caused the “Sixers big three” conversation to start up again, and it isn’t hard to see why.
On the flipside, the third-most expensive man on the 76ers roster has struggled mightily since taking the court with Harden. Tobias Harris has certainly had his ups and downs this season, but seemed to find his old groove just before the acquisition of the Beard. Harris tied together 53 points in a two game stretch against the two top teams in each conference back in mid Febuary, coming on a very efficient 69-percent shooting from the field.
Now alongside James Harden, Harris has lost that groove with the ball out of his hands. Harden deservedly runs the offensive sets when on the court, and enjoys taking the ball off the dribble himself when not feeding Embiid. This has led to Harris moving further away from the isolation ball he’s used to now that he is getting many more open looks off of rotations, especially from deep.
Unfortunatley, Harris has not capitalized on those open looks through two games. From deep Tobias has only knocked down four of the eleven shots he’s seen from behind the arc. Considering the fact he’s only shot the ball 18 times in that span, if Harris isn’t converting those triples at the rate Sixers fans expect, his scoring will severely suffer.
Harris only scored six points in the trouncing of the Timberwolves last Friday, a game that saw the 76ers as a unit score 133 points. If you take out the fourth quarter of the Knicks game on Sunday Harris only had eight points through seven quarters of basketball playing alongside James Harden.
While it is still early in the relationship between Harden and Harris, if the former Volunteer can’t begin to convert his wide open looks Harden gets him things could get ugly. Especially considering Harris has a lot of the pressure to score taken off of him now that he’s firmly back as the third star of this franchise.
Finally, there’s everyone’s favorite defensive Stallworth Matisse Thybulle, who James Harden may have found a way to make useful on the offensive end. Now his numbers from deep have not gotten any better since getting the very wide open looks that playing alongside Harden and Embiid give. Yet Thybulle has found a way to be a thorn in the side of defenses that help off him with his basketball IQ.
For all the things Thybulle struggles with on the offensive end, his ability to cut to the basket at the right time has always been there. Now paired alongside one of the brightest offensive minds in James Harden, the two have been able to routinely punish lazy defenses. Against the Knicks a majority of Thybulle’s eight points came on back cuts to the rim when his defender was too focused on Harden. James was able to easily oop Matisse for a slam and force defenses to once again at least acknowledge Thybulle.
I understand the phrase “dunker spot” still brings painful memories for many 76ers fans, but this could be another way for Matisse to have an impact on the offensive end. The three ball still needs to be there, but you can now justify leaving Thybulle out there longer with James Harden with this new offensive tactic.
Mandatory Credit: NBC Sport