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The 76ers Should Let James Harden Walk This Off-Season

Ever since the 76ers dealt Ben Simmons and that whole slew of players for James Harden, the entire organization has known this was a win-now move. God forbid the Embiid/Maxey/Harden trio fails to result in at least an eastern conference title — the 76ers are in trouble.

Joel Embiid is now nursing a concussion and a facial fracture that’ll hold the big man out until at least game 3 against the Heat, and Harden is a shell of himself. The team’s second best player is now Tyrese Maxey yet Harden might land a max contract this summer. If Daryl Morey wants to redeem this trade in any way he’d be best off letting Harden walk. That’s right– for nothing.

Even Stephen A. Smith spread this message on ESPN early Thursday morning.

“Let’s just stop it, okay? We respect James Harden. We know that James Harden has been great for years and a lot of it can be reduced to health issues. He wanted out of Houston and he was determines to get out of Houston so when they initially told him ‘no’ he came in out of shape, overweight, and obviously had to work himself into shape once he got traded to Brooklyn,” Smith said.

“He’s (Harden) has never looked the same since he put on that weight trying to get out of Houston and it’s come back to bite him. James Harden has not attempted 20 shots since he’s arrived in Philadelphia. Does anybody believe that? This is James Harden we’re talking about here. James Harden, one of the most prolific scorers this game has ever seen in the history of the NBA has not even attempted 20 shots since he’s arrived in Philly. He can’t get open…he can’t create separation and that is why he has not attempted 20 shots. James Harden has not scored 25 points in his last 14 games.” He’s right. It’s ugly.

Is it time to give up on Harden, though?

First of all, James Harden is slower even to the naked eye for anyone that’s watched the beard play basketball the past decade. Was never fleet of foot or playing at the rim, but he always had that unique ability to get past single coverage defense. Now James Harden, as the 76ers’ third wheel, can’t get a shot off. He’s not scoring and that’s essentially the only thing he was good at when he won MVP as a member of the Rockets. That’s no knock on who the MVP was either because scoring is the hardest thing to do in basketball. But when you fail to dominate your field when you’re lackluster elsewhere — it’s hard to defend a roster spot. Let alone for north of $60 million a year (Yes, you heard that number correctly.).

James Harden’s max extension, because this isn’t his first mega-deal, would be for north of $60 annually. Daryl Morey can’t save this but he can lick his mounds.

And secondly, defending Morey here a bit, what other choice did he have at the time of this deal? Ben Simmons didn’t want to play. He couldn’t let Simmons waste prime years of Joel Embiid, and plus there weren’t many deals on the table to begin with. It probably feels like trades happen every weekend in the NBA, however not many of them work. The Philadelphia 76ers need to let Harden walk to the Lakers or whoever else is desperate so they can focus on the Embiid-Maxey duo. They can build around that.

You know what you can’t build around? An out of shape $60 million injury-prone player with zero leadership qualities that cares more about partying with rappers than basketball. Imagine what Harden looks like in 2025?

Written by Gary Sheffield, Jr

Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr

3 Comments

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  1. He’s a $15m-$20m player now. He’s lost a step or two from the mileage and lifestyle. He’s still a good passer, but the elite 30 points per game is gone it seems. I wonder who would give him a max now.

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