Sixers: What to expect in James Harden’s return to Houston

James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
James Harden, Sixers Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers are expecting the return of James Harden. Ironically, the return lined up for Harden to play in his old stomping grounds of Houston against the Rockets. Harden explained how returning to play in Houston is not sentimental but his return to the 76ers lineup is his focus.

There are two things to be expected in Harden’s return: easier offense for the entire team and Harden to play under 30 minutes. Let’s begin with the latter of two expectations and that is playing time. Playing Harden under 30 minutes in his return is a conservative coaching move — a sound, rather safe than sorry mentality. No need to play Harden so much in his return to the lineup in December against a bad Houston team, Houston currently holds a record of 6-17. Continue to rest Harden’s legs considering his recent injury history.

Another reason for not playing Harden that much is because of Houston’s young team. Going against players with young legs who are quick and athletic is not an ideal matchup. Harden playing fewer minutes than he will in the future opens up the door for more bench minutes. That will benefit Harden and the Sixers in the future as well, assuming they play up to their talent level consistently.

Limited or not, James Harden’s return will have a profound effect on the Sixers’ offense

The return of James Harden is beneficial because the point guard of the team is playing again. Harden is the best ball-handler and playmaker on the team. He’s averaging 22 points and 10 assists per game for a reason. The team’s offense with Harden on the floor will look better due to the addition of his ball-handling and passing vision to find teammates.

The team’s offensive rating is at 113.1, its highest among starters and rotation players when Harden plays this season. That is some confirmation for the offense being better and more consistent going forward, barring injury of course. For context, Harden has played only 331 minutes while the Sixers have 773 minutes without him. Harden’s return will act as an energy drink to the Sixers’ offense.

The Philadelphia 76ers managed to tread water while James Harden was injured by going .500 in 14 games. Along the way, other injuries have happened but Harden’s was the first one to occur. Harden’s is much needed for both him and the Sixers. In closing the concept of this expectation is simple, and that is to expect better more efficient offense with James Harden being back on the floor for Philadelphia.

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