Sixers: 3 goals for James Harden in 2022-23 season

James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Sixers officially went all-in last season, mortgaging an arm and a leg to acquire James Harden at the trade deadline. It resulted in another second-round exit in the playoffs — not explicitly Harden’s fault, but disappointing all the same. Now, with a new season on the horizon, the former MVP faces a set of high expectations.

Last season was Harden’s worst individual campaign in years — impressive, considering how effective he was. He looked slower and more exposed than ever before on offense. He couldn’t always turn the corner on drives to the rim. He couldn’t create separation behind the 3-point line like we’re used to. Even his jumper felt more fallible than normal. Many have blamed his struggles on a lingering hamstring injury, but Harden is also 33 years old. There are a lot of NBA miles on his body, and it’s fair to wonder if we’re at the tail end of Harden’s superstardom.

Of course, we won’t know for sure until late October. The buzz around Harden this summer has been raucously positive. He looks thinner, more explosive, more like his old self. It’s easy for a player to market his “improvement” on social media, but the Harden noise seems to extend beyond open gym highlight reels.

As the new season approaches, here are three goals for the (potentially rejuvenated) Harden.

Goal for Sixers’ James Harden: Over 25 points per game

Harden averaged over 25 points per game for eight straight seasons before his trade to Brooklyn. We are talking about one of the truly great scorers in NBA history. While Harden’s game shifted more toward creating for others last season, there’s reason to believe he could — if the reports of his improved hamstring are true — start to creep back over the 25-point threshold.

There are a couple factors to consider here. First and foremost, Joel Embiid is going to average somewhere in the 25-30 point range. Harden was the alpha dog in Houston. He’s the No. 2 in Philly, which will inherently put a dent in his scoring output. There’s also the matter of Tyrese Maxey, who is quickly ascending the staircase to stardom.

Even so, Harden averaged 21.0 points per game in 21 regular season games with Philly last season. That was with a bad hamstring, a lower comfort level within the offense, and uncharacteristic inefficiency. Harden was not aggressive enough for long stretches of last season. If he comes back healthier, and in turn comes back more aggressive, there’s no reason he and Embiid can’t both eclipse the 25-point mark (an arbitrary number, to be sure, but a good one to shoot for).