The Philadelphia 76ers are hoping their 2022-23 campaign will be the season where they can finally make a run to the NBA Finals. A player who will have a big role in making that happen is James Harden. Harden is a huge piece of the 76ers this season, but it's clear he will have to be better for Philly than last season. The good news is that it sounds like Harden is close to 100 percent health entering the season.
Rivers makes it clear what he wants to see from Harden this upcoming season
Harden's first few months with the 76ers didn't go as he would have liked for them to go. Harden was very passive with the ball and struggled to get himself involved as a scorer far too often. Harden's inconsistencies were a big reason why Philadelphia eventually got bounced from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Miami Heat.
Everyone watching saw Harden trying to figure out why things weren't working for him, including his new head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers has made it clear he wants Harden to be the 76ers top facilitator of their offense, but he also needs him to be able to score as well. Rivers said that if he were to combine those two things, it would result in a scoring version of Magic Johnson, which is what Rivers is looking for from Harden this season.
"I think we've talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don't know, but that's what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, 'Do both.'" - Doc Rivers, NBA on ESPN
Rivers has some high expectations for Harden
While it's clear that Harden needs to be better this upcoming season, nobody said he needed to be like Johnson, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers great. Those are some lofty expectations for Harden from Rivers that the star guard may be unable to reach.
While Harden probably wasn't at 100 percent health last season, there's a decent chance we were watching him regress right before our eyes. He struggled to create looks for himself like he's been able to throughout his career, which hurt Philadelphia badly. He was getting others involved, which was great, but there came times when the 76ers needed Harden to step up, and he simply couldn't.
However, at his peak, Harden has the potential to reach the caliber of player Rivers mentions here. Harden is such a natural scorer when he's playing his style of basketball that it makes him and his teammates so tough to stop. If Harden gets more involved as a scorer this upcoming season, like Rivers wants him to, the 76ers will be a tough team to beat this season.