As the Sixers continue to try and tie up this playoff series against the Miami Heat—people have been tough on James Harden. Rightfully so, the man hasn’t lived up to the same level of play we’re accustomed to seeing. From his days in Houston, even in Brooklyn, Harden has had a tough time. However, let’s stop the talks that he is done playing at an elite level of basketball.
The numbers are still there
Sure, the 32-year-olds play hasn’t been the same as his time in Houston—but he’s still averaging great numbers. This regular season he averaged 22 points, 10.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds. The man is still averaging nearly a triple-double. He’s second in the league when it comes to passing. He’s averaging 18 points in this postseason, but you can credit that to a tough Erik Spoelstra team and Toronto defense.
Rollercoaster of a dramatic season
Most people are forgetting what happened during the regular season. Harden played more than half the season in Brooklyn, a place where Kyrie Irving could only play home games due to not taking the vaccine. Also, Brooklyn was the same place where Kevin Durant missed a number of games because of injury as well. The roster was never set and stone. Harden had to get in shape DURING the season (which is his own fault). This whole season was messy way before the trade. And when the trade did happen, the Sixers had little time to build team chemistry.
This isn’t four years ago… the elements have changed
Of course—now isn’t going to be like the days in Houston, Joel Embiid is a completely different type of player that Harden is used to from a center. Typically Harden would use his big guys as pick n roll weapons to throw lobs to—that’s not Embiid’s game. Embiid needs the ball in his hands to make a play for himself.
Also, the rules for drawing fouls have changed. A few years back, drawing fouls was the pivotal part of Harden’s game. He no longer gets to the free throw line as much, which makes him less aggressive, and now he becomes a better passer.
So before people start to question whether Harden’s talent is gone—take a second look. Has he lost a step? Maybe. It’s been tougher for him to get that quick first step on defenders, but it’s just harder to draw fouls in general. He deserves to be paid like the top NBA player he still is.