Grading every Sixers player: James Harden // C+
Here’s the rub. James Harden‘s next contract will probably scare everyone. He failed in the biggest moment on the biggest stage. He has a muddied history of success in the postseason. And the Sixers should absolutely bring him back. You cannot let a player of Harden’s caliber walk out the door for nothing, and the chances of getting back comparable talent via trade is slim to none right now.
The Sixers are stuck with James Harden and that’s okay. For now, they have to ride out the experiment. If he looks even worse next season, despite having the full summer to train, condition, and learn the playbook, then we can start to panic. But here’s the simplest of truths: James Harden made the Sixers a lot better, even with very little time to mesh and build continuity.
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Harden did fall flat in Game 6, but he was also instrumental in several Sixers victories in the postseason. He’s one of the best passers in the game and he will continue to elevate those around him, even if his individual points output plateaus in the 15-25 range each night instead of the 30-40 range. Harden is more in the All-Star range than the MVP range, but he’s still impactful. He’s still helping the Sixers win games.
Next season is when the rubber meets the road — when things really start to matter. This year wasn’t meant to be. Joel got hurt. Harden was much better than the national media narrative (and frankly the local Philly narrative) would suggest, but he also fell drastically short of expectations after Philly gave up a fair amount to get him. The pressure will only build from here. Let’s see if Harden can step up.