Sixers: 3 reasons James Harden will look better next season

James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Why Sixers’ James Harden will look better: Training camp

Lost in the whirlwind of debate about Harden’s physical condition last season was just how hard it is to integrate a star player mid-season.  The Sixers had 21 regular season games to completely re-learn how to run the offense. Harden took the point guard reigns from Tyrese Maxey, Embiid spent more time setting screens and working off the ball, and Tobias Harris completely changed his approach. Harden benefited the Sixers dramatically, and the team was clearly better after his arrival, but there were still times when it all felt unnatural and forced.

Now, Harden will have a full training camp to learn Doc Rivers’ playbook, get acclimated to his teammates, and fine-tune his role with the team. Embiid will have a full training camp to work on his pick-and-roll game with Harden. Maxey will have a full training camp to embrace his off-ball role and learn how to be aggressive within the context of an Embiid-Harden offense. Harris will get a full training camp to play off the ball and establish his role defensively.

Next season will feel a lot less “on the fly.” Harden was plainly uncomfortable with the offense at times last season (and especially in the playoffs). That won’t be the case so much when he gets a full summer, and then a full regular season, to build and grow with his teammates.

How many teams win championships after acquiring their second-best player in February? Not many. It’s hard to accomplish. The 2022-23 season was always going to be the real referendum on the Harden trade. There are valid concerns with the Philadelphia franchise, but let’s be frank: Harden will look better, and any team with him, Embiid, and Maxey on the floor has a chance to do damage in the postseason.

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