Sixers’ James Harden is lurking as an MVP dim horse

Sixers’ James Harden is lurking as an MVP dim horse

Joel Embiid has finished as the runner-up for the NBA’s Most Precious Participant in each individual of the previous two a long time, and oddsmakers expect him to be appropriate back in the mix this time. He’s at this time a +650 at DraftKings Sportsbook, trailing only Dallas Mavericks wunderkind Luka Doncic (+425) and Milwaukee Bucks ahead Giannis Antetokounmpo (+600).

In the meantime, James Harden (+7000) scarcely cracks the prime 20 of oddsmakers’ favorites for MVP. He’s powering the likes of Damian Lillard (+5000), Anthony Davis (+6000), Zion Williamson (+3500) and Anthony Edwards (+6000), among many others.

Whilst Harden deserves to be an MVP very long shot heading into the period, he could emerge as a legit dark horse for the award.

The Houston Rockets edition of Harden—the a person who led the NBA in scoring for a few straight a long time from 2017-18 by 2019-20—isn’t probable to appear again. The Sixers really don’t have to have that edition of him, either. Embiid led the league in scoring very last yr, and he averaged extra details for every recreation following Harden’s arrival in February (32.6) than he did prior to the trade (29.6).

Harden’s key worth to the Sixers will be as a playmaker, a function in which he thrived final year. He averaged 10.5 assists for each recreation in the course of his 21 typical-year appearances with the Sixers, and lots of of his teammates flourished along with him.

Tyrese Maxey went from averaging 16.9 details on 46.9 p.c taking pictures (39. % from a few-level assortment) prior to Harden’s arrival to 18.7 points on 52.3 p.c shooting (48. % from deep) afterward. It took Tobias Harris lengthier to embrace his new position, but he inevitably strike his stride toward the finish of the frequent year and in the playoffs. Harden even assisted Matisse Thybulle become related on offense in brief spurts, although that speedily pale away.

With a whole offseason, instruction camp and preseason to continue making on that chemistry, Harden is poised to hit the floor working this calendar year. The Sixers’ offseason staff upgrades need to only support in that office, much too.

Harden played alongside P.J. Tucker for 3-as well as yrs in Houston, and those a few seasons had been the kinds in which he led the league in scoring. The “TuckWagon” lineups that showcased Tucker participating in as a compact-ball middle ended up one particular of the number of powerful counters to the dynastic Golden Condition Warriors at the time. With Tucker acquiring knocked down a profession-significant 41.5 percent of his a few-issue tries very last year, he should really supply Harden with a reliable travel-and-kick possibility alongside the perimeter.

Danuel Property Jr. did not spend as much time alongside Harden in Houston (2018-19 and 2019-20), while he did commence 65 video games more than that two-period span. He’ll similarly provide as a multipurpose a few-and-D option in Philly, and he could be a important contributor to a Harden-led next device based on how head coach Doc Rivers staggers his rotation.

Montrezl Harrell expended the very first two seasons of his job subsequent to Harden in Houston, even though his production jumped underneath Rivers’ tutelage on the Los Angeles Clippers. Harden has thrived with bouncy choose-and-roll associates in the past—most notably Clint Capela—and he “played a sizeable job in recruiting Harrell to the Sixers,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

De’Anthony Melton is the only notable offseason addition with whom Harden hasn’t performed in the past, but they could equally forge a effective on-courtroom marriage. Melton knocked down 38.8 percent of his 4.7 a few-issue tries for each video game over the previous two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, and his defensive aptitude really should assist make up for Harden’s deficiencies and/or indifference on that close of the floor.

Embiid will remain the focal issue of the Sixers’ offense, but Harden figures to be the one orchestrating the motion much more usually than not. If he’s totally recovered from the lingering hamstring injury that plagued him throughout last year, he should have the burst again to deliver offense for himself extra conveniently, too. Rivers and the coaching staff can assistance in that regard as nicely, drawing up sets built to develop open up looks for Harden.

Harden could also established himself up for a bounce-back again 12 months by varying up his shot diet plan. With Embiid routinely commanding double-groups, Harden shouldn’t have to develop for himself as substantially as he did in Houston. If he starts shifting off the ball a lot more and results in being a viable catch-and-shoot threat, the Sixers could have one particular of the league’s most potent offenses. Including far more midrange tries and floaters could help, much too.

If Harden does have a bounce-again year statistically and assists gas a leading-five offense, the narrative variable could start off swinging in his favor. His final decision to drop his $47.4 million player solution and re-signal for $14.4 million a lot less is what enabled the Sixers to include the two Tucker and Home this offseason. That sacrifice shouldn’t go unnoticed, notably if he generates like a max-caliber participant this calendar year.

Embiid and Harden could possibly cannibalize MVP votes from just one yet another, which often takes place when two stars are on the same group. Some voters may feel compelled to reward Embiid, who has nevertheless to win an MVP, instead of giving Harden his 2nd, significantly if Embiid is the Sixers’ most effective player.

Even if Harden doesn’t wind up successful MVP, do not be shocked if he surges up the odds leaderboard at some stage this season.

Until usually noted, all stats via, PBPStats, Cleansing the Glass or Basketball Reference. All salary details by way of Spotrac or RealGM.