The Philadelphia 76ers, like any team, have their x-factors for the team to achieve higher levels of postseason success. It could range from three to six different candidates. That’s how many players I debated over in my head.
I landed on the statement that the three Sixers in particular need to step up in the NBA playoffs. Each player has a few swing skills on both sides of the court.
Let’s dive in.
The Philadelphia 76ers need these players to step up in the playoffs
1. James Harden
I really didn’t want to put Harden on this list because of how much I enjoy watching his game but there are one too many playoff subpar games to leave him off of this shortlist. His big blemishes in various playoff games in the past, his impending potential free agency, and the possible fact this team is his last best chance at winning an NBA title are a few possible reasons that could be combined into an overall motivation for Harden to step up.
Sixers fans, regrettably so, remember Harden’s gruesome performance last postseason in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series against the Miami Heat. In that closeout game, “The Beard ” posted a modest 11-point, 9 assist, 4 rebound, and 4 turnover performance on an oddly low 4 of 9 shooting from the field in 43 minutes. That performance for Philadelphia adds to the history of the MVP guard falling very well short of the standard of his own play and the play expected of a superstar player. It was his eighth time scoring less than 20 points in a closeout game, Harden has played in 22 playoff elimination games. To counteract this pattern, Harden needs to play like the potential All-NBA guard play he displayed earlier on this season.
James Harden will need to produce similar levels of his December to February run this season. Harden played 35 games in that time frame where he averaged 21.5 points, 10.9 assists, 6 rebounds, 6 free throw attempts per game, and 3.6 turnovers in 36.7 minutes per game on .453/.406/.848 shooting splits. Harden’s ability to involve his teammates, hit the three-pointer, and get to the free-throw line are large factors in his stepping up. In games against potential playoff opponents, Harden has played his role exquisitely despite the outcome of each game. He had 26 points and 11 assists on .571/.429/.875 shooting splits in 37 minutes against the Boston Celtics in a 106-99 loss in Boston on February 8th. On February 25th in a 110-107 loss at the Wells Fargo Center, Harden scored 21 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 4 turnovers on .313/.250/.100 shooting splits in 41 minutes.
Harden has so much riding on this postseason personally and collectively with the Sixers team. It doesn’t help that the Sixers’ point guard is dealing with an Achilles injury at the time of this writing. It is seemingly going to bother Harden throughout the rest of the playoffs. An injury to the Achilles is never good but it adds to Harden’s list of lower body injuries over the past three seasons.