Through Two Games, James Harden has revitalized the Philadelphia 76ers

It seems like every 76ers fan has been re-invigorated and juiced with pure adrenaline since the 76ers were able to acquire NBA superstar and all-time great, James Harden.

After finally putting an end to the mind-numbing Ben Simmons situation, the Harden trade was ruled a success the minute he stepped on the court. With the Sixers success in their past two games, especially from their new acquisition, the team looks poised for greatness after adding the exact presence the team has needed the past couple of seasons.

Gaining a three-level perimeter scorer, especially one the caliber of Harden, has made Joel Embiid’s nightly 30+ points seem somehow easier. Add on the emergence of Tyrese Maxey, who’s capable of putting in an efficient 22-24 points of his own, and the Sixers are a brand new team. They’ve showcased impressive chemistry and rhythm with just a few days of practice. 

With defenders having to respect Harden on the perimeter, Embiid has gotten more open looks and one on one matchups than ever, while any double teams leave one of Philadelphia’s many shooters open. 

Although it’ll take some time for players, like Tobias Harris, to find their new roles, with the quality looks Harden is dishing to teammates, it’s only a matter of time until they start heating up and hitting their shots. Still, the team as a whole was able to hit nearly 50% of their shot attempts in both of their first two games.

The biggest headline, however, has been the number of free throws the team has attempted and shot. Between Embiid and Harden, they shot 37 versus the Knicks and 22 versus the Timberwolves. 

In the Knicks game, not only did the game set a record for free throw attempts within regulation with 79, Embiid shot 27, the most by a player in one game since Sixers legend Ben Simmons shot 29, hitting 15 (Embiid made 23). 

But as anyone watching a Sixers game can tell you, for most of their fouls, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the call.

Similar to Hack-a-Shaq and its more successful counterpart Hack-a-Simmons, defenders can’t do much else to prevent Embiid and Harden from getting to their shot. 

Both are also more than adept at selling contact, but the fact remains that fouls are a huge part of NBA strategy today. Knowing how to take advantage of your defenders’ mistakes is something every star learns to do. 

I suggest teams that don’t like this simply play better defense and score more points on offense.

If the first two games of the new-look 76ers are any indication, this could be a special time in Philadelphia. 

For the first time in a long time, Sixers fans aren’t watching each game with a twinge of sadness, wondering why $35 million had to miss every game. 

But the ordeal is finally behind the team and they are now able to look to the future. A future that likely includes a familiar foe.

With a playoff matchup with Brooklyn possibly in the future, it’ll be interesting to see the emotions on the court as the teams duke it out in the coming days. As players have made abundantly clear, the games will be more than personal.

The acquisition of Harden has rejuvenated the Sixers organization and breathed new life into fans. The move also places Philadelphia squarely into contention for the Eastern Conference crown.

And the Sixers are well equipped to rise to the occasion in any clash of NBA heavyweights.

Cover Image Credit: Adam Hunger / Getty Images

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