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Can James Harden still be an elite scorer? Or is the Sixer now just a facilitator? Daryl Morey won't say

Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

“James is a great player,” Morey responded. “He has the ability to score, pass. Yeah, he’s a very good player. We are excited for the future with him.”

Perhaps they are, but he never answered that big question. This leads one to believe that either Morey doesn’t know or he declines to say what appeared to be the obvious.

Yes, Harden is not the primary scorer while playing alongside Embiid, who led the league in scoring at 30.6 points per game. His job became setting up teammates and to be the secondary scorer.

However, Harden was called upon to be the Sixers’ scoring threat in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Miami Heat with Embiid sidelined with a concussion and an orbital fracture near his right eye.

He had nowhere near the impact that the Sixers could have hoped.

Harden had 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in the 106-92 Game 1 loss. He shot 5-for-13 from the field, including making just 2 of 7 three-pointers. He followed that with 20 points, nine assists, and four rebounds in the 119-103 Game 2 loss. On this night, Harden made 6 of 15 shoots, missing four of his five threes.

 

He’s appeared to be a shell of his former Rocket self since joining the Sixers, and especially in the playoffs.

And it’s hard to blame all of that on a hamstring injury when considering all the minutes he has played. He averaged 40.6 minutes in the opening-round series against the Toronto Raptors. Harden followed that up by averaging 39.2 minutes vs. the Heat.

The 32-year-old point guard has lost some quickness and can’t get past defenders like he once could. Harden is not getting to the foul line as much these days either as a result of his loss of speed and quickness and officials are swallowing the whistle on players who were once called for fouls.

His free-throw attempts decreased from 8.3 per game in the regular season to 6.3 in the playoffs. Harden didn’t attempt any in Thursday’s 99-90 Game 6 loss to the Heat.

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