James Harden had, by far, his worst season as a pro, at least in terms of his efficiency, this past season.
He shot just 41.0 percent overall from the field and 33.0 percent from 3-point range, and being traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t help.
Harden’s season ended in dubious fashion, as he took just nine shots and failed to score any points after halftime as the Sixers were eliminated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Miami Heat.
ESPN NBA analyst Bobby Marks, who used to work in the front office of the Nets, thinks Harden is going to return to his old self and have what he calls a “redemption year.”
.@BobbyMarks42 is ALL IN on James Harden in Philly this season 👀
"We're gonna be talking about James Harden in the top 3 when we talk about MVP conversation." pic.twitter.com/MVZHtBZMTu
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 10, 2022
Harden could very well play better this coming season, but expecting him to return to his old prolific self he was while with the Houston Rockets is simply unrealistic.
Once Dominant, Now Apparently Washed
Just a few years ago, Harden was one of the game’s most prolific players ever.
He led the NBA in scoring for three straight seasons beginning with the 2017-18 campaign, and he peaked with a 36.1 points per game average in the 2018-19 season, the highest since Michael Jordan in the mid-1980s.
That year, he scored at least 30 points in a remarkable 32 consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in league history behind only Wilt Chamberlain.
It caused many people to put Harden on the same level as Jordan and Kobe Bryant as far as being one of the greatest scorers in basketball history.
Charles Barkley says James Harden 'might be' the best player in the world over LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Barkley also says Harden is a better offensive player than Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant
(Via ESPN) pic.twitter.com/N7dj2kTopk
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) March 24, 2021
When it was clear the Rockets had hit a plateau, Harden asked out, and he was traded to Brooklyn early in the 2020-21 season.
Those Nets were proclaimed as the NBA’s next superteam and even the most talented team ever, but after Harden was hampered by a hamstring injury in the playoffs, they fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.
In the 2021-22 campaign, Harden continued to play as if something was hampering him.
Was he still suffering the after-effects of his hamstring injury, was he out of shape or was it something else?
The Prospects For A Resurrection Aren’t Looking Good
If Harden was still limited by his hamstring ailment this past season, it could very well be something that lingers for a very long time, as hamstring injuries are tricky when it comes to healing and recovery.
At the same time, he will turn 33 later this month, and even though he isn’t old per se, some players start to show signs of decline at that age.
It may be reasonable to expect somewhat of a positive bump in Harden’s shooting percentages, as long as he shows more commitment to his fitness and conditioning than he has lately.
So at this point can we just agree that James Harden wore a fat suit as a Rocket… pic.twitter.com/iWBzt2BKv3
— Mike Korzemba (@mikekorz) January 16, 2021
But in all likelihood, he will not go back to the same Harden who was dropping 30-point games as if they were 10-point games.
The Sixers don’t necessarily need that version of Harden in order to contend for the NBA championship, but they do need him to shoot a respectable percentage from the field on a consistent basis.
But even that seems a bit unlikely right now.