4th Cut: James Harden
Much of the summer discourse surrounding Harden so far has been wondering if he wants to resign with Philadelphia. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the 76ers should even offer him the extension he is asking for.
Harden is the third edition of the rapidly-declining reality TV show “Who Wants to be Embiid’s Co-Star?” and I think it’s time to vote him off the island. It’s a tough pill to swallow because Harden is truly one of the most talented offensive players and pure shot-makers in the history of the league. But there is a reason his illustrious career has yielded zero rings.
If the goal of this team is to win a title—or for the time being just get out of the second round—playoff-Harden is not someone you want kicking around the locker room. His resume in big games would not even get him an interview at Clutch Playoff Performers Inc., and by the end of the Boston series, he looked ready to quit and go home.
But it’s also true that Harden single-handedly won two of Philly’s three wins against Boston, so it’s hard to demand the 76ers just pack it up and leave him on the side of the road. There’s also the reasonable question of Harden’s replicability because it is unbelievably hard to find stars in this league.
But I’m just out. Running back this core against an improved Celtics team—who they haven’t been able to beat since…the eighties—as well as a healthy Milwaukee is just lunacy. There is always an avenue to retool a roster, and I don’t see the 76ers getting over the hump if Harden is the primary ball-handler.
That’s because Harden makes the game too easy for opposing defenses in tightly played playoff series. Because he needs the ball to be effective, the opposition conveniently always knows where the ball is, an issue mentioned by his former coach Doc Rivers during an interview with The Ringer’s Bill Simmons.
The Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors—the last two NBA champions—both run their offense through constant motion from all five players. I’m not saying Harden needs to turn into Stephen Curry running around off the ball, but I don’t think he’s capable of being 25 percent of that at this stage in his career. I’m out on Harden. Time to move on.