3 things to watch in Sixers’ first preseason bout with Cavs

Tyrese Maxey, Sixers, Darius Garland, Cavs (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Tyrese Maxey, Sixers, Darius Garland, Cavs (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Sixers-Cavs what to watch: Offensive hierarchy

We didn’t get see Philly’s two superstars on Monday. If Embiid and Harden do ultimately suit up Wednesday, it will be our first chance to view the supposedly “new and improved” Harden. What’s his burst like? Is he assertive or passive? Is he on the same page with Embiid?

The Embiid-Harden partnership will likely evolve over time. Embiid has very limited experience rolling off of screens with a guard like Harden running point. He has the playmaking instincts and skill set versatility to dominate as a roll man, but it will take time. And patience. For Harden, this preseason has to be about establishing his place in the offense. He needs to stake his claim as the No. 2 scorer and Embiid’s partner-in-crime.

Last season, Harden struggled to maintain his usual scoring volume and efficiency because of his hamstring. Even in that diminished state, however, he passed up far too many scoring opportunities. If he is truly in better shape, there’s no excuse. Harden is an elite pull-up shooter and one of the most physical dominant drivers in NBA history. If nothing else, he’s second only to Embiid in forcing his way to the free throw line. The Sixers need Harden to look for his own offense, especially when he’s running the second unit and Embiid is on the bench.

It’s unwise to read too heavily into preseason basketball, but we should get an idea of Harden’s burst and aggressiveness pretty quickly. If he looks like he did last season, that’s not a death sentence (Harden was great last season) but it might force some fans to recalibrate expectations.