76ers’ James Harden snubbed from All-Star roster

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The 2023 NBA All-Star reserves were announced Tuesday night, Feb. 2 — and naturally, fans of the Philadelphia 76ers will feel unjustifiably slighted. While Joel Embiid was unsurprisingly named All-Star for the sixth consecutive season, his star teammate James Harden was nowhere to be found.

The Eastern Conference backcourt reserves were voted as followed by NBA coaches: Tyrese Haliburton, Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown, and DeMar DeRozan.

While all four names are deserving on the surface, it’s hard to build a case that all four have outplayed Harden to this point in the season. Haliburton should have started, in this writer’s humble opinion, but Harden was next man up. The 33-year-old is averaging 21.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 11.0 assists per game on splendid efficiency (.449/.394/.864).

76ers’ James Harden should have been an All-Star

The only semi-logical conclusion is that NBA coaches docked Harden for games played. He has only made 34 appearances for the Sixers, while the four guards voted in have all played at least 40 games.

There’s a valid argument there, but it’s not like Harden has missed half the season. And, if we’re judging primarily on quality of performance and impact on winning, it’s difficult to deny Harden’s prodigious offensive output. Not only are his individual stats worthy of admiration, but he makes everyone around him better — including his All-Star partner in crime, Joel Embiid.

Harden isn’t the most beloved superstar of his generation. He has long been a figure of controversy in some circles, with not every NBA fan appreciating his particular gift for manipulating defenders and exploiting the rule book. Fans, however, don’t vote for All-Star reserves. Coaches do. And the idea that coaches didn’t appreciate Harden’s production — for the fourth-best team in the NBA, which has won 21 of its last 26 games — is mildly disappointing.

One has to imagine that not all hope is lost, of course. There is almost always at least one injured reserve required each season. Harden has to be high on the list of candidates if Adam Silver is forced to replace an injured All-Star. His main competition is probably Cleveland’s Darius Garland, who also would have made it outright if my personal vote was law.

Ultimately, in a year filled with so many high-level performances, it’s hard to get too upset about Harden’s exclusion here. All the players voted in have compelling cases to their name. That said, one can’t help but wonder if Harden would be an All-Star lock if so many fans weren’t holding him to the standard of his past — either explicitly or subconsciously. The numbers speak for themselves, and anyone watching Sixers basketball would be hard-pressed to argue against the former MVP.