James Harden's fit with the Philadelphia 76ers has been a big talking point. On the "Road Trippin" podcast, Richard Jefferson recently said that the upcoming season will be the most important in the 10-time All-Star's career:
"This is the most important year of James Harden's career. We know the accolades are there, we know the greatness is there. There's actually been a little bit of a decline and people have now questioned him. And so, they've really questioned him and it was like postseason, he struggled. He admitted it, he's taking less money.
The former NBA champion also explained that the expectations from Harden are ridiculously high. Jefferson continued:
"So, when I say that this is going to be the most important year, it's because will he reclaim his spot as one of the top ten players in this league? If we set our expectations for him to give you 20, 11 and seven, which is amazing, then it's going to be somebody like Tyrese Maxi or Tobias Harris that have to step up. Somebody else on the offensive end is gonna have to step up."
(Watch from 11:55)
James Harden joined the Sixers midway through last season in deal involving Ben Simmons. Many believed that Harden and Joel Embiid will help Philly compete for the title. However, they lost to the Miami Heat in six games in the conference semifinals.
Harden averaged 21.0 points, 10.5 assists, and 7.1 rebounds in 21 games with the Sixers. These numbers are shockingly low for James Harden. He averaged over 30 points per game for three consecutive seasons in his Houston days.
James Harden believes he can have a MVP season
The last couple of years have been a rollercoaster for Harden. The three-time scoring champ has struggled with hamstring injuries and did not look in great shape last season.
However, the former MVP believes he can reach the levels he showed before the pandemic. In the 2019-20 season, Harden won his third consecutive scoring title and averaged 34.3 points per game that season.
On SiriusXM NBA Radio, Harden said that he was feeling great and did not have to rehab for the first time in two seasons. He highlighted a few things required for a MVP level season and expressed confidence heading into the new season. Harden said:
"Working out individually and playing pickup and playing basketball are two totally different things. It's a different type of conditioning. So, I haven't had that in two-and-a-half years. For me, I had an entire summer just not worrying about rehab. Just being me and working out and playing pickup, and having fun at playing basketball again.
"I've dedicated myself to being in the best shape because I am getting older. I've always said that if my conditioning can be level with my skill set and my IQ and the work that I put in, it's MVP. And I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be. So, I'm in a really good place, I'm healthy, and I'm excited to get going."
When healthy, the Sixers are undoubtedly one of the favorites to win the East next season. A lot of that will depend on Harden and his chemistry with Joel Embiid.