It’s only been two weeks since former Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden was shipped to the LA Clippers. During that time, the Sixers have proven to be better than anyone could have expected and with Harden now gone, it seems clear that the Sixers have had an addition by subtraction.
Superstar Joel Embiid even appeared to take a subliminal shot at Harden with his recent comment that “there are no egos on this team,” suggesting that Harden had one. Given that Harden has forced his way off of three teams in four years, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t have an ego and the Sixers seem to enjoy playing without him.
Considering that he never played for them this season, they are doing surprisingly well to start the year, which is likely why team president Darryl Morey decided to move on from Harden. This is despite how he handled Ben Simmons’ trade request, waiting months until he got the best deal.
Instead, he agreed to the framework of Nic Batum, Marcus Morris, and Robert Covington, as well as the two firsts he had been haggling over for months. That initially seemed to be an unfavorable deal for the Sixers, though if they continue to play this well without Harden, then moving on from him might be an asset unto itself.
The Sixers are thriving playing post-James Harden.
With a strong start, the Sixers could afford to part with Harden without getting a star in return and now find themselves in a far better spot than anyone could have assumed. Thanks to the four large expiring contracts of Tobias Harris, Covington, Morris, and Batum, they can match salaries in an eventual trade for a star. Better yet, they also have the two first-round picks from the Clippers to offer up in a potential deal.
In the meantime, they can rely on Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, who is playing at an all-star level, to carry the load with new additions. Kelly Oubre has given them offensive pop, while Patrick Beverly has helped on the defensive end. They were both signed with the hope that they could help Philly post-Harden and they have thus far.
With James Harden no longer on the Sixers, their attention now turns to finding a star to pair with Joel Embiid, and rumors link them to three stars.
The Sixers playing well without Harden is perhaps a bigger statement than Embiid could make since it suggests that he isn’t nearly as impactful as he once was. The Clippers certainly hope that that isn’t the case. Whether he is or isn’t, it’s clear that the Sixers are better off without him, and the trade gives them more options than it first appeared. The Sixers might still be a threat in the East this season.