By Peter Gleason
The Sixers Joel Embiid and James Harden are happy and healthy, and if they are playing at their best they can win the title.
And this is not just a two-man team. Tobias Harris is on a max contract and can score 20 efficient points any night, and Tyrese Maxey is a star in the making. Philly is deep and talented, and the Sixers might put the most talent on the court any night against any team.
Since Harden has taken the court, the Sixers are 16-8, a 55-win pace. Embiid continues to play like an MVP, and he and Harden have a +16.3 Net Rating together in 603 minutes, per Pivot Analysis. If Embiid stays healthy the next two months, he is absolutely playing well enough to be the best player on a title team.
The question is whether Harden is still good enough to do his part. He has a -11.4 Net Rating in 189 Philly minutes without Embiid. He isn’t getting to the rim like he used to, and his finishing has fallen off along with his free throw rate. We saw Harden struggle early this season with the new foul rules.
What happens when the whistle tightens in the postseason?
The Sixers will be heavily matchup dependent. Embiid can overwhelm some opponents physically, and teams that foul frequently will see Philly grind out wins at the line night after night. But an opponent that doesn’t foul often and isn’t too reliant on 3s can beat them.