Deep Dive: James Harden’s “championship” impact on the Sixers
James Harden has flipped the perception of him by Sixers fans in a very short couple of months.
Not long ago, fans were questioning his mental makeup and his desire to win in the NBA playoffs. However, the nagging hamstring injury took its toll on Harden.
James Harden had the opportunity to opt-in to a player option this season where he would be making $47 million. Instead, he decided to opt-out and earn $15 million less this season, which helped the Sixers sign some noteworthy free agents, such as P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.
While many Sixers fans may have a bad taste in their mouth from Harden’s overall playoff performance, it’s worth discussing how positive of an impact Harden had on the team. The proof is directly tied into the team’s three-point shooting. Everyone shoots a higher percentage when Harden is on the court versus off the court. Most notably, Embiid, whose three-point percentage is 5% better. In addition, Matisse Thybulle is a large beneficiary whose percentage goes up by 10%.
It’s worth noting that the NBA league average from three is 35.4%. With the new additions of Melton, House, and Tucker, the Sixers now have six players who shoot better than the league average. While Harden isn’t one of those six, it’s because he takes the highest degree of difficulty shots from beyond the arc. Keep in mind Harden’s career average is 36.1%, and he was nursing a hamstring injury last season.
I don’t think anyone should question Harden in terms of shooting. Harden is in the top 4 in NBA history in three-pointers made. The key with Harden has always been his quick first step and step back. If he treats his body correctly this summer, he can return to doing both effectively. It certainly seems like he has been doing that this offseason.
Harden returning to form would result in the Sixers being a dangerous team. If that happens, you could argue he would be Embiid’s best running mate. Even better than the ever-loved Jimmy Butler. I’m not saying returning to the Houston Rockets version of Harden because that just isn’t possible. What I mean is more similar to the Brooklyn Nets version.
Harden averaged 22 PPG, 10.3APG, and 7.7 RPG, in 65 games last season. You compare that to Butler’s 18.2 PPG, 5.3RPG, and 4.0APG, in 55 games with the Sixers; there’s an argument that Harden is the better player. Now, Jimmy is on another planet then Harden on the defensive end. However, Harden makes up for it with his elite offensive skillset.