When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired superstar guard James Harden in a blockbuster trade that also jettisoned Ben Simmons and ended the saga surrounding him, Sixers fans rejoiced and started to think world championship.
Philly, which had been hovering around the .500 mark for most of the first half of the season, has been playing very well since late December and especially since the Harden trade when down in early February.
The 76ers are now making a run at the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but even if they accomplish that, come playoff time they have a fatal flaw that, more likely than not, will prevent them from winning it all.
That flaw’s name just happens to be James Harden.
Yes, Harden Is A Great Player And Has Helped Philly
Before the Harden trade, a dark cloud hung over the Sixers organization in the form of Simmons, who demanded a trade and refused to play for the team after head coach Doc Rivers made what seemed like an honest but neutral comment about him following last year’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team pic.twitter.com/8xL35u98RC
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021
The 76ers seemed to hit a grand slam when they not only got rid of Simmons but also got Harden in return.
With Simmons out, Philly lacked a dynamic guard who could push the pace, set up his teammates, create his own shot and carry the offense for stretches.
Harden seems to check all those boxes and then some.
In his first 14 games with the Sixers, he has been averaging 22.4 points, 7.6 assists and 9.9 assists per game.
But a deeper look at him reveals some real concerns.
Harden Is A Deeply Flawed Star
Although the Los Angeles-area native is putting up some good numbers with his new team, his efficiency has been terrible.
In those first 14 games with Philly, he is shooting just 41.5 percent from the field, which is well under his career percentage of 44.3 percent.
But the biggest concern with Harden is his bad track record in big playoff games and high-leverage situations.
In his lone trip to the NBA Finals in 2012, he shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from 3-point range.
Look at how poorly he has shot in each of the following playoff elimination games, all of which his team lost:
- 2013 first-round vs Oklahoma City Thunder, Game 6: 7-of-22
- 2015 Western Conference Finals vs Golden State Warriors, Game 5: 2-of-11
- 2017 Western Conference semifinals vs San Antonio Spurs, Game 6; 2-of-11
- 2018 Western Conference Finals vs Golden State Warriors, Game 7: 12-of-29
- 2021 Eastern Conference semifinals vs Milwaukee Bucks, Game 7: 5-of-17
In Tuesday’s big matchup with the defending world champion Bucks, Harden played well statistically, scoring 32 points on 9-of-17 shooting along with nine assists.
But again, he failed to come through in crunch time.
With 4.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Philly down two, Harden missed a step-back 3-pointer that would’ve put his team ahead.
JAMES HARDEN FOR THE WIN
— Cody Mallory (@RealCodyMallory) March 30, 2022
A player like Harden, at least based on his history, simply cannot be counted on to put the Sixers over the hump when it matters most.