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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Palmore

The Downfall of James Harden

At his peak, James Harden was one of the most unstoppable offensive forces the game has ever seen. In Houston, he won an MVP award and was a candidate for the award almost every season he was in Houston. However, Harden finds himself out of the playoffs again in the second round after an awful game six performance where he only took two shots in the second half and did not score.

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After the Brooklyn Nets suffered a heartbreaking game seven loss to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks, many believed the Nets were in great position to contend for the title again this year as long as everybody was healthy and available to play. However, it did not work out like that at all at the beginning of the season as Kyrie Irving would have to sit out all home games for the Nets due to New York's vaccination mandate. After a shaky start to the season in Brooklyn, Harden looked diminished physically as is his burst and first step seemed to be gone. As the season wore on, speculation rose on Harden's desire to be in Brooklyn and was eventually traded to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline.

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In James Harden's first two games in a Sixers jersey, the team looked to potentially be the favorite in the East. Harden's first game with the Sixers was against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Harden went for 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 12 assists. In his second game with the team against the New York Knicks, Harden put up an impressive triple double with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 16 assists. As the season went on, Harden's level of play was relatively inconsistent and a huge question going into the playoffs.

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In Philadelphia's first round series against the Toronto Raptors, Harden averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists. He often looked passive on the offensive end and more concerned with being a facilitator than being aggressive as a scorer. The Sixers eventually won the series, but after being up 3-0, they dropped the next two games and won the series in six games.

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In the second round against the Miami Heat, the Sixers had to play the first two games without Joel Embiid and it did not go well. In game one, the Sixers lost 106-92 and James harden had 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. In game two, the Sixers lost 119-103 and Harden had 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 9 assists. It was a disappointing first two games for Sixers fans because the team traded for Harden to be that second star that could take pressure off of Joel Embiid and without Embiid, the Sixers and Harden looked helpless on the court. As the series shifted to Philadelphia, Philly won both games and in game four, it was a blast from the past from James Harden as he scored 31 points and had 7 rebounds along with 9 assists. It was one of the best games Harden played this year. However, it did not translate in Miami as the Sixers were humiliated in game five 120-85.

Game six was arguably one of Harden's worst performances in an elimination game (there have been many) as he only scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting as the Sixers saw their season end in a loss at home. In the end, the winner of the Ben Simmons/James Harden swap is unclear. Ben Simmons did not play a game for the team and while Harden made contributions to the Sixers, they traded from him to be a closer and a bucket getter in clutch moments. In a way, Harden presented the same problems Ben Simmons did last year because he did not look to score in the big moments and was not aggressive. James Harden should not be completely written off as "Washed", but this is a big offseason for him as Philly needs to decide if they want to give him a max contract.

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