It has been a quietly successful offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers. While Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the Brooklyn Nets have taken up most of the media’s attention, their former teammate, James Harden, has done his business quietly alongside the 76ers organization.
Some new faces have been brought in to help propel the 76ers to their first NBA championship since 1983. With Joel Embiid being a top-five player in the league for at least two years now, the 76ers are in a healthy position that is being overlooked because of the flashier and more recently successful teams in the Eastern Conference.
Have the Philadelphia 76ers actually had the best summer of any franchise?
The 76ers offseason has revolved around the actions of Harden since the season ended abruptly. Believing in Harden feels like fool’s gold at this point, especially after his second-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. Harden averaged just 18.2 points during the series, a far cry from his postseason heyday with the Houston Rockets. When the 76ers needed him most, he was nowhere to be seen.
Why should we expect anything different from a guy who will be 33 years old next season? Well, restructuring his current contract to take less money allows the organization to spend it on reinforcements. It also shows that Harden is willing to put his money where his mouth is in pursuit of that elusive championship.
He may have already made more than $268 million over the course of his career, but when you look at the deals Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard signed, it is clear the money was there for Harden if he wanted it. Instead, he had this to say about it:
I had conversations with Daryl, and it was explained how we could get better and what the market value was for certain players. I told Daryl to improve the roster, sign who we needed to sign and give me whatever is left over. This is how bad I want to win. I want to compete for a championship. That’s all that matters to me at this stage. I’m willing to take less to put us in position to accomplish that.
This statement was breath of fresh air for a player whose commitment has been called into question many times over the course of what has been a Hall of Fame career.
This might be the most important year of Harden’s career, even though his days as a top-five player are over. This is where Embiid and the new recruits enter the conversation. Embiid has been fantastic for a long time now and showing this level of play has dispelled the injury concerns that were rightly attached to his name from the moment he was drafted in 2014.
Meanwhile, P.J. Tucker has joined the squad, but on a puzzling three-year deal. While he might be 37 years old, you only need to look at his last two seasons to see how integral he is to contending groups. He won a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021 and got to the final four with the Miami Heat last season. He is also a good friend of Harden’s, which is beneficial to team chemistry.
Forward Danuel House Jr. has also signed up with the Philadelphia 76ers, and although he is far from a household name, he is the perfect complimentary piece to Harden as we’ve seen during their time together on the Rockets. He rarely gets the ball, but he plays hard and is an above-average defender, as well as a 36.6 percent career 3-point shooter.
House Jr. is everything you could want next to a star like Harden who typically fails to stay locked in defensively for long stretches. Speaking of underrated moves, De’Anthony Melton was a sneaky good pickup from the Memphis Grizzlies. Like the 76ers’ other additions, compliments the players already on the team.
The new personnel will definitely help, as should Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris. Maxey could’ve won the Most Improved Player award last season and figures to have a big jump in year three. He is the X-factor of this group. As for Harris, he’s been the subject of ridicule because of his contract, but his offensive ability and size make him an excellent member of the starting group. He’s also coming off his best postseason yet.
There is a lot to like about the 76ers and is the direct result of Harden’s willingness to adapt to his situation. If nothing else, his already Hall of Fame career will have another notch added to it. They say superstars are the last to know their days at the top are over. Russell Westbrook is currently enduring an awful time of it right now and Carmelo Anthony came before him.
James Harden isn’t there yet, but he knows the times and the situation have changed. So, he’s decided to adapt, to try and win it all, and the Philadelphia 76ers have improved as a result.