Sixers: Ranking James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and every NBA backcourt

James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

team. 93. . . . Philadelphia 76ers. 6

6. James Harden & Tyrese Maxey, Sixers

What version of James Harden will the Sixers get? That’s an important question, but it is often asked by people who undersell what Harden brought to the franchise last season. Even if he’s no longer the MVP of yesteryear, he’s possibly the most advanced playmaker in the game — a true basketball genius who consistently compromises his defender and creates scoring avenues for teammates, if not himself. Tyrese Maxey, meanwhile, is the perfect complement — a speedster who is deadly attacking off the catch, putting constant pressure on the rim when he’s not hitting 43 percent of his 3s.

Memphis Grizzlies. 5. team. 211. . .

5. Ja Morant & Desmond Bane, Grizzlies

Ja Morant made the leap to stardom last season, and he elevated the Grizzlies to contender status in the process. He still has room to grow, but Morant is probably the best guard slasher in the game. It’s impossible to keep him out of the lane, where he can either finish with grace or locate shooters for easy looks. One such shooter is Desmond Bane, who is on the shortlist of the best shooters in basketball. Morant and Bane are right at the center of Memphis’ unselfish, team-oriented style of play. The ball zips around the court, open 3s are regularly generated, and even the best defenses struggle to keep Memphis’ tempo in check.

125. . . . Atlanta Hawks. 4. team

4. Trae Young & Dejounte Murray, Hawks

This is a fascinating partnership. Neither Trae Young nor Dejounte Murray have spent much time playing off the ball in their NBA careers. Young has been the most ball-dominant star in basketball the last couple years, while Murray was at the center of every Spurs possession last season. Now, they’ll have to learn to co-exist. Young’s shooting gravity should translate well to more off-ball possessions, but he has to actually buy in and sacrifice. The same can be said for Murray; he will have to learn to impact winning while playing within a structured system, rather than leading it. On talent alone, they rank highly, but there is some crash-and-burn potential if the pair can’t get on the same page.