When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for James Harden last season, it was a sign from the front office, staff and team that the goal was to win a championship now.
No, the Sixers didn’t trade franchise cornerstone Ben Simmons for young players with potential. No, GM Daryl Morey didn’t trade Simmons for roleplayers either. The goal was to find someone who would increase Philadelphia’s chances of winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Not in three or five years. Now.
Enter James Harden. The former MVP may not be the individually dominant playmaker and goalscorer he was in Houston, but he fit in exactly what the Sixers needed. Joel Embiid excels at pick and roll, as does Harden. Harden brings experience and a win-now approach to complement Embiid’s Superstar Prime. And Harden provided some much-needed playmaking in the wake of Simmons’ departure.
But Harden’s tenure in Philadelphia last season was something straight out of a Charles Dickens novel; it was the best of times and the worst of times. However, heading into the 2022/23 season, the goal remains the same: to bring a title to the city of brotherly love.
And it looks like Harden is up for the challenge. When a fan demanded a ring from the Sixers earlier this week, Harden revealed his motivation for the season.
“I told him we needed a chip. He said, “That’s what I’m here for.” the fan tweeted.
If Harden is all in, it bodes well for Philadelphia. And thankfully, he might not even need to put on a vintage performance to get the Sixers over the playoff hump.
Don’t tell Sixers GM Daryl Morey that Harden needs to rediscover his best Rockets form — he’ll almost certainly disagree. Last week he sat down with NBC Philadelphia’s John Clark on an episode of The Take Off with John Clark to talk about Harden, the signing of PJ Tucker and rising star Tyrese Maxey.
Morey denied that Harden needed to brave father time. Instead, he put the pulse right into the corner of another star.
“And probably the most important things are that we need Joel to give us another MVP-level performance. we need James to just be himself – we don’t even need James five years ago, we need the guy we saw for most games last year; But probably the biggest turning point is that we need Maxey to take another step forward,” Morey explained.
If Maxey can take another step forward next season, he will make a strong case for earning his first All-Star nod. And according to insiders, that shouldn’t be too much of a task for the former Kentucky Wildcat.
In early September, CBS Sports’ Michael Kaskey-Blomain compiled a list of players likely to play their first All-Star game next season. Standouts include former No. 1 overall winner Anthony Edwards, playoff hero Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Maxey.
“[Maxey’s] That improvement helped cement him as a formidable complement to all-star center Joel Embiid, and his ability to play both on and off the ball should help him pass forward alongside Harden in Philadelphia backfield . Maxey has a relentless work ethic and as he continues to develop there will likely be multiple All-Star selections in his future,” Kaskey-Blomain wrote.
If Maxey manages an All-Star jump next season, it could put the Sixers in elite company. As long as Embiid is healthy, he’s almost a suspension to celebrate the midseason festivities. And James Harden could very well be looking at his 11th All-Star nomination next season. In Maxey, the Sixers would have lucky number three — the same number of All-Stars as last year’s Golden State Warriors, who went on to win the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.