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Charles Barkley isn't sold on the James Harden-Joel Embiid pairing: "One guy has to take a backseat"

Barkley on the Embiid Harden pairing

Barkley on the Embiid Harden pairing

The Ben Simmons-James Harden saga is over after the season's biggest and most anticipated Woj Bomb dropped yesterday. The young socialite is joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, and Harden's quest for an NBA title continues after a long-awaited reunion with Daryl Morey in Philadelphia.

"Everyone got what they wanted"

In the end, "everyone got what they wanted." Ben's season-long campaign of forcing a change of scenery bore fruit, leaving him with enough time to get back to action with his new team. On the other hand, Harden's recently publicized, but long speculated unhappiness with the Nets, got him where we wanted to be -- playing alongside Joel Embiid, with Morey pulling the strings behind the scenes.

The consensual feeling around the NBA community is that there is no clear-cut winner in this deal. Both teams had their backs against the wall, and it was only a matter of time before a swap happened. But according to Charles Barkley, with how limited the market was for both organizations, the 76ers might've given up too much.

"The Brooklyn Nets won the trade," Barkley said. "Philadelphia, to me, they gave up a lot of depth; I wouldn't have traded Seth Curry and I like Andre Drummond. If Ben Simmons plays, and it might not work out this year, but they are a really good team going forward. To me, Philly has got to win this year or next year."

Barkley's concerns about the Sixers' superstar duo

Harden has picked up his $47,366,760 player option for the 2022-23 season as part of the trade. So, in theory, at least, that gives the 76ers a two-season window to bring a title to Philly. But, based on his eagerness to acquire James, Morey has no doubt their new superstar pairing is good enough to do it, perhaps even this year.

Unlike his former teammate, Embiid's new partner doesn't have an obvious deficiency on the offensive end that teams can capitalize on. That in and of itself raises a ceiling for how far the Sixers can go. Now it's only a matter of establishing the pecking order and trying to develop a system that will keep both star players happy.

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Piling up high-demanding individuals on the same team always raises a question about the fit. But on the surface, Harden and Embiid should work well together -- James' playmaking, along with his ability to create for himself and others, complements Embiid's in-and-out game perfectly. However, it seems that Barkley is not convinced.

"James has shown down, he's not the same player," Chuck said. "And I don't know how he and Embiid are going to work together. They both need the ball. James is going to have to make the biggest sacrifice because Embiid is the better player. When you get two great players together, one guy has to take a backseat. To me, it's gonna have to be James."

Based on everything we've seen from the two thus far in the season, Harden is the obvious guy to take a backseat. But the question is, which version of Harden are the Sixers going to get?

If he continues to play the same way he's been playing this season, attempting the atypically low number of field goals, prioritizing getting others involved instead, Harden will be the perfect second option next to Joel. If he, however, decides to return to his old self -- the all-time high volume scorer he was in Houston -- James' game might potentially intervene with Embiid's. Then, once again, it becomes about egos.

"He has to be the second best player for the Sixers."

Charles Barkley, Inside The NBA

Morey got what he wanted. Harden arrived where he wanted to be. Embiid got rid of the one he lost all the trust in. Now it's time to make it work. Barkley raises some legitimate concerns. All the Sixers' fans can do is to, once again, trust the process.

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