Should the post-James Harden Sixers worry Celtics?
Even with James Harden officially on the 76ers roster before the season began, the Celtics made a serious of roster moves to sure up their roster, for undoubtedly, a potential playoff matchup with Joel Embiid and a supposed James Harden 76ers team. Most notably, the Celtics traded for point guard Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis.
The 76ers problems with Harden began with his acquisition last year in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets. The Philadelphia brass and the fans thought Harden was the missing piece to the championship puzzle. But, since Embiid was drafted, the 76ers were unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs. Also, there were reports about tension between Harden, Embiid and upper management.
Unfortunately that feud spilled out into the public light with Harden vowing to never play again for Philadelphia. After a four-month stalemate, the Philadelphia 76ers shocked the basketball and sports betting world by sending James Harden, the former MVP, to the Los Angeles Clippers in a blockbuster trade. While a James Harden trade was widely expected, the Clippers weren’t high on their list, with three All Stars already on their roster.
How the Sixers Are Faring
Since trading Harden, the 76ers look and are playing like an inspired team. While the Clippers are 0-5 in the Harden era, the 76ers are 8-3, and only one game behind the 9-2 Celtics in the Atlantic Division. In fact, the 76ers recently lost to the Celtics, 117-107 on their home court. Even though Harden is no longer around, the 76ers are still heavily reliant on Joel Embiid as their primary scorer.
If the 76ers are going to win this trade, they are going to have to develop viable and consistent scoring options that can help take the pressure off Embiid. Philadelphia's acquisition of Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, and Nic Batum may not have eased the concerns of Celtics fans who were worried about the Sixers strengthening their roster with impactful players to support Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. Instead, it has worked to have the Celtics keep an even closer eye on their Atlantic Division rivals and possible playoff roadblock.
But the key to the 76ers success will be the play of third-year player, Tyrese Maxey. Now that Harden is gone, Maxey will continue to have more shot opportunities and increased playing time. And so far, Maxey has delivered as a starter, averaging over 28 points this season. In the Celtics loss, Maxey scored 20 points.
With Harden out of the mix, the pressure and attention also shifts to Tobias Harris, the former sixth man of the year. No doubt that the 76ers will continue to give Harris the green light to shoot threes and to provide consistent scoring off the bench to take the load off Embiid.
But, perhaps the biggest fear of the Celtics, is what the 76ers plan to do with all the draft picks they acquired. It’s possible that they package the picks and some of their players to get another proven scorer to help the 76ers advance to the Conference Finals and beyond, at the possible expense of the new-look Celtics.
Where the Celtics Stand
If the Celtics are going to make their second NBA Finals in three years, Jason Tatum will have to play at an MVP level, like he did to lift the short-handed Celtics over the 76ers. And if Porzingis can remain healthy, especially during the playoffs, it might be enough to continue the 76ers post season misery and raise their 18th championship banner in the rafters.