For yet another season, the Philadelphia 76ers fell way short of expectations.
After coming back to tie the Eastern Conference semifinals versus the Miami Heat, they looked disconnected and desultory, dropping the next two contests to end their season.
When a team has such a gap between what it was supposed to accomplish and what it actually earned, it’s clear that it’s lacking something and that changes need to be made.
The 76ers will have some tough decisions to make this summer, but if they’re serious about winning their first NBA championship since 1983 and satisfying one of the roughest fan bases in sports, they need to make a few moves in particular.
3. Get Rid Of James Harden
Whether they trade him, he opts out of the final year of his contract, or he gets banned from ever setting foot in Pennsylvania ever again, the 76ers must divorce themselves from Harden.
The former 2018 league MVP had fans abuzz when the team jettisoned Ben Simmons and two other players to get him a few months ago, and some even had to nerve to compare the new duo of Harden and Joel Embiid to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
— Gustavo (@iamvega1982) May 13, 2022
They fell short – way short – of those expectations, and Harden doesn’t exactly have the track record of raising his game in high leverage situations that Bryant is famous for.
In Game 6 versus Miami, the biggest game of his season, Harden took a grand total of nine shots in 43 minutes and mustered just 11 points, continuing a trend that has haunted him for years.
James Harden, in a close out game you can't have a performance like that; only take two shots and score no points in the second half?
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) May 13, 2022
Furthermore, his shooting percentages this season were considerably lower than his career averages, and there is no clear indication that this problem will resolve itself next season.
Even if it does, Harden simply doesn’t seem like championship material.
The best-case scenario is that Harden opts in to the final year of his contract, and the Sixers end up getting some viable value for him in a trade.
However, some Philly fans have the sneaking suspicion that general manager Daryl Morey, who was the GM of the Houston Rockets when Harden was there, will give Harden a hefty contract extension no matter what.
2. Find A Point Guard
With Simmons gone, Philly doesn’t have a true point guard or floor general.
Tyrese Maxey, a second-year guard who has become a rising star for the Sixers, has emerged as a scoring threat and a secondary playmaker, but he is not a natural point guard or table-setter.
Getting a true point man would go a long way in stabilizing the team when it comes out flat or when the opposing team goes on a run, as well as in getting the ball into the right places and improving an offense that was just 18th in points scored this season.
1. More Fight And Heart
Philadelphians think of themselves as fighters who are tough as nails and never shy away from a conflict while showing tons of heart and chutzpah.
These are admirable qualities that the Sixers haven’t possessed in a long time.
The Heat, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs days ago, have plenty of those qualities, and so does any team that either wins the world championship or seriously challenges for it.
Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and to a certain extent, Embiid, are blessed with those qualities, but Philly needs more players of that ilk to get to the next level.