James Harden is the best player in the NBA, but it could be argued that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are both better than him. That doesn’t matter when you’re playing alongside two of the most talented big men in basketball history.

James Harden Erases Any Doubts of His Ability to Play Alongside Joel Embiid, but He'll Need to Play Second Fiddle

The James Harden era in Philadelphia officially started on Tuesday, when the 76ers held a news conference at their practice facility to welcome The Beard. Harden was asked a lot of questions about why he was effectively requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, and he mainly answered them with a lot of nothing. Harden’s response to a question regarding the 76ers’ prospects of winning a championship with him and Joel Embiid was the most revealing moment of the news conference.

Throughout the news conference, Harden expressed complete confidence in his ability to coexist alongside Embiid, whom he praised. The Beard asserted unequivocally that he and JoJo can lead the Sixers to a title this season.

Harden will have to take on a more supporting role in order to do this. Is he sure he wants to do that?

“Hell yes,” says the narrator. James Harden seems to be looking forward to forging a new 76ers star duo with Joel Embiid.

Harden’s divorce with the Brooklyn Nets may have put an end to superstar trios as a viable option. He did, however, trade Embiid for a monstrous combination with an inconsistent Big Three.

The Beard seemed to be ecstatic about the prospect of teaming up with the 76ers’ center.

When asked about whether he felt a Philly team led by himself and Embiid could win a championship this season, Harden curtly responded (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia), “Hell yeah.” The 32-year-old acknowledged that it will take some time to adjust to having new teammates and gel on the court. However, he indicated that Sixers players already bring a championship mindset to the table.

Over the next two months, Harden’s championship attitude will be put to the test. In order to harness the potential of his combination with Embiid, he must make improvements to his game.

Will Harden make an exception for Embiid?

James Harden goes up for a layup against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid during an NBA game in February 2021

James Harden goes up for a layup against Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid during an NBA game in February 2021 On February 06, 2021, James Harden tries a layup over Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers during a game | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

James Harden and Joel Embiid should, in theory, scare opposition defenders.

Harden thrives at creating slip passes that lead to easy baskets near the rim, while Embiid is more comfortable completing short rolls as a screener. Furthermore, both players excel at getting to the line, making defenders’ jobs difficult on numerous levels.

Embiid has developed into a reliable perimeter shooter. Teams must respect Harden’s propensity to shoot from beyond the arc, allowing him to assault the paint with straight-line drives. Similarly, Embiid’s ability to go to the basket off the bounce and on short rolls draws defenders into the lane. The Beard will have more opportunity to sit behind screens and display patience as a result of the additional attention JoJo generates.

It’s less about what Harden does when he has the ball in his hands and more about how he contributes when he doesn’t.

When Embiid’s post-ups are a focal point of the offense, the 76ers flourish. According to NBA.com, he averages 1.10 points per possession in the post. That puts him in a tie with fellow NBA MVP contender and Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic for the top mark among all players who post up at least 20% of the time.

As an off-ball cutter, Harden has little to no value. With his shooting skills, he can stretch defenses, but it won’t matter if he can’t navigate the space created by Embiid post-ups. Will Philly’s offense stagnate if The Beard is unable to change his approach?

Harden’s request has been fulfilled for the time being, and he is optimistic about the Sixers’ prospects. Nonetheless, his track record shows that supporters should be suspicious of his suitability.

With other ball-dominant players, the Beard has a hard time winning.

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Remember how James Harden termed it “dangerous hours” for the rest of the NBA this summer? That didn’t work out for the Brooklyn Nets, unfortunately.

Many of Brooklyn’s failures may be attributed to injuries and Kyrie Irving’s unwillingness to get immunized. The recent revelations regarding Harden’s dissatisfaction with the Nets roster, though, should worry 76ers supporters.

Harden intended to play an isolation-based style in Brooklyn, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, however Kevin Durant and Nets head coach Steve Nash preferred a “free-flowing” approach. Sources also informed Fischer that when Nash sketched up plays for KD out of timeouts, Harden “rolled his eyes,” according to Nets assistants.

Despite the fact that Durant is one of the most skilled scorers in NBA history, Harden expressed displeasure with providing KD his touches. Durant finally agreed to the deal, according to Fischer.

Who’s to say The Beard won’t have the same frustrations as Embiid when it comes to sharing possessions?

Harden has never been very successful when paired with other ball-dominant players. His collaboration with Russell Westbrook fizzled out, as did his tenure with Kevin Durant. Part of it is due to his role as the focal point of Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets offensive.

For Embiid, that’s not exactly a heartwarming thought. This season, the 76ers’ top big man has an NBA-high 37.3 percent usage rate, and as a consequence, he’s having an MVP season. Because Embiid is so comfortable on the ball, he can make plays in transition. When opponents refuse to double him in the post, he’ll rip apart defenses with his passing and score on anybody.

Harden’s bold proclamations about Philly’s championship ambitions have a good possibility of coming true if he modifies his game to meet Embiid’s. However, nothing in The Beard’s past indicates that he is capable of doing so to the utmost degree possible. The Sixers may be doomed as a result of this.

RELATED: The 76ers’ pursuit of Mike D’Antoni casts doubt on Doc Rivers’ stellar season.

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