The Philadelphia 76ers were exceptional last season, finishing with a 51-31 record. The arrival of James Harden lifted the team's spirits, but they had to figure things out on the go. They beat the Toronto Raptors in the first round, but Joel Embiid's absence to start the series versus the Miami Heat put them at a disadvantage.
What does Embiid need to focus on this time?
The 76ers' last playoff run ended early, but with new signings and training camp in full swing – the team will be locked-in. The franchise's defensive strength has also improved – with additions like P.J. Tucker, Montrezl Harrell, and Danuel House.
Joel Embiid is coming off a tremendous season, which led him into the MVP discussion. The new-look roster will give him renewed confidence, and he can focus on using his strengths effectively.
"This is really the first time in Joel Embiid's career that he comes into an NBA season where he doesn't have to worry about trying to make up for some deficiencies on the roster," NBA analyst Tim Bontemps said on NBA Today.
James Harden is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The Beard has not been his best self for a while now but still succeeds in adding value. He played 21 games for the 76ers last season, averaging 21 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 10.5 assists – showcasing his strengths. He struggled with consistency in the playoffs, but the summer has reportedly been progressive for the 2017-18 MVP.
"I really think James Harden is going to be on a mission this year," Matt Barnes said on NBA Today.
"James Harden was the baddest man on the planet for a little while," Barnes added. "So, I think James Harden's resurgence is really going to help Embiid's chances of winning MVP, and that team's chance of winning a championship."
Embiid and Harden's one-two punch was quite effective, giving opponents trouble with their pick-and-roll game. Harden has spent a lot of time improving his all-around game and could dial back to his MVP days in the upcoming season.