James Harden’s start with the 76ers has unearthed a worse problem: how do we measure star players in today’s NBA?

The “76ers score” is a problem that has been present for a while. James Harden’s spectacular start with the 76ers has unearthed a worrisome problem: The Philadelphia 76ers are now the best team in basketball.

James Harden's Spectacular Start With the 76ers has Unearthed a Worrisome Problem

Fans of the Philadelphia 76ers couldn’t have wished for a better start to James Harden’s career. The Sixers have outscored their opponents by 47 points in two games with their new-look squad, averaging 129 points per game, and Harden seems like his old MVP self again.

Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey have gotten along swimmingly with their new teammate. Matisse Thybulle has made a name for himself as a defensive specialist and off-ball cutter. Even Doc Rivers seems to have a solid idea of the rotation he’ll use in the playoffs.

So, what is the problem?

Tobias Harris has been demoted to the team’s fourth scoring option despite the fact that the majority of the squad has improved since Harden’s arrival. Should supporters of the Sixers be concerned?

James Harden’s career with the 76ers is off to a great start.

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Harden was expected to be an improvement over Ben Simmons by 76ers supporters, but few expected it to look this good so soon.

Harden had 27 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds in his debut against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but his effect was felt much beyond the stat sheet. Almost the whole night, his teammates were wide open due to the attention he demands from a defense. Even Embiid, who was garnering double teams before to Harden’s arrival, got more clean looks at the basket with Simmons on the field than he had without him.

And all night, Maxey, the Sixers’ No. 1 scoring option on the perimeter, was freed up for easy shots and uncontested drives to the basket. Harden, Embiid, and Maxey combined for 89 of the team’s 133 points, shooting a collective 63 percent from the field.

In his second outing with his new squad, Harden was even better. In another spectacular victory against the New York Knicks, the 10-time All-Star poured in 29 points, 16 assists, 10 rebounds, and five steals. With 37 and 21 points, respectively, Embiid and Maxey were also outstanding.

It takes time for traded players to develop the ideal chemistry with their new club, so image how the 76ers will look in the playoffs if they appear this dynamic after only two games. The NBA now has its newest offensive powerhouse.

Harden’s arrival hasn’t helped Tobias Harris.

Tobias Harris and James Harden still have some chemistry to build.

Tobias Harris and James Harden still have some chemistry to build. The Philadelphia 76ers’ Danny Green, Tobias Harris, and James Harden converse on the bench during their game against the Boston Celtics | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Before Harden arrived in Philly, Harris was already facing some criticism. Since 2017, the veteran forward has averaged the fewest points per game (18.3) and has the lowest three-point percentage (34.7%), and he hasn’t lived up to his $36 million deal.

Harden’s inclusion in the starting lineup hasn’t helped things. Harris has only scored 18 points in the previous two games, shooting 5-for-18 from the field. Maxey has clearly established himself as the 76ers’ third scoring option, while Harris has been demoted to fourth.

It may not matter how Harris shoots on the offensive end if the Sixers continue to dominate with their new-look core. Harris, on the other hand, is owed roughly $77 million over the next two seasons. You can’t justify spending that much money on a fourth scoring option, so Harris will have to find a different way to contribute on the floor.

It’s time for Harris to get used to his new job.

James Harden on playing w/ Tobias Harris (@tobias31) and the @sixers:

“Tobias has that smooth game. He can shoot it, he can post up, he can score from anywhere. I think everybody on the floor – Tisse, to Danny, to Maxey – the entire group, they’re competitors. They want to win.” pic.twitter.com/xL0YKwddb4

— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) February 25, 2022

Let’s put salary and offensive aspirations aside for the time being. Harris no longer has to be a go-to man because Embiid, Harden, and Maxey play so well together. What he can do, though, is accept a new job on the squad.

On the attacking end, Harden thrives with room and shooters around him. Harris will get a number of open threes per game if he can camp out in the corners and allow Harden and Embiid enough freedom to run pick-and-rolls. All he has to do now is get those open looks down to about 40%.

Harris, on the other hand, can be immensely helpful to the 76ers on defense. Prior to Harden’s arrival, he should have focused all of his attention on solo plays, but now he should devote it all to his defensive effort. Outside of Thybulle, Philadelphia lacks a real defensive stopper, and Harris will be called upon to be that man in crunch time throughout the playoffs.

Harris will offer the Sixers an excellent opportunity to make a run to the NBA Finals if he can play as a backup offensive option, hit open threes at a respectable clip, and slow down opposing wings on defense.

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RELATED: James Harden Made 76ers History in Just Two Games

The 76ers have been on a roller coaster ride this season, with their most recent win coming at the hands of James Harden and the Rockets. This win was cause for celebration, but it also unearthed a troubling problem: The 76ers’ defense is really bad. Reference: tyrese maxey.

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