Sixers: 3 players who must step up with James Harden out

James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
James Harden, Sixers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Without James Harden, the Sixers will once again turn to Joel Embiid

The Sixers have struggled to find the right balance between James Harden and Joel Embiid, but there were fleeting signs of progress after Philly’s embarrassing 0-3 start. Well, that’s all out the window now — it’s time for the Joel Embiid Show once again.

We have seen Embiid play MVP-level basketball for two years now, most of it without Harden (or a healthy and spry version of Harden). He’s more than capable of unlocking that same level of stardom in Harden’s absence, eating up more halfcourt possessions and redefining how the Sixers play offense.

When Harden does eventually return, the Sixers need to work on diversifying Embiid’s offensive involvement. He can sometimes make the game harder than it needs to be, and Harden is more than capable of supplying Embiid with easy points around the rim. But, with Harden on the pine, we should expect a steep decline in playmaking acumen. That means the best path to creating offense will run directly through Embiid, who should embrace his passing talent when defenses inevitably toss the kitchen sink at him.

The Sixers have relied on Embiid to move heaven and earth before. He will need to do it again to keep the team afloat without Harden, who was far and away the greatest source of offensive stability for the team though nine games. The Sixers are 4-5 and face a difficult upcoming stretch of the schedule. It’s time for Embiid to make his MVP case.