Early returns on 76ers' James Harden

stephen curry jersey authentic warriors button up jersey James Harden and Joel Embiid have played in five games together as teammates. The returns? Pretty dang good.The 76ers

stephen curry jersey authentic James Harden and Joel Embiid

James Harden and Joel Embiid have played in five games together as teammates. The returns? Pretty dang good.

The 76ers are now a perfect 5-0 in games Harden and Embiid have appeared in together since joining forces. They haven't exactly faced the best teams in the league — Timberwolves once, Knicks twice, Cavaliers once, Bulls once — but they didn't just win those games, they dominated them by an average margin of 16.6 points.

Harden's numbers in those games: 24.6 points, 12.4 assists and 7.6 rebounds on 59.2 percent shooting from the field. Embiid's: 32.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.4 a NBA Tank Tops ssists on 50.0 percent shooting from the field.

More than those numbers, it's how Harden and Embiid have looked together that should terrify the rest of the league.

Let's take a closer look.

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Your turn, my turn

As expected, going up against two of the most dominant one-on-one scorers in the league is, uh, not fun.

Harden has been picking defenders apart on an island at a rate nobody can match for a while now. Embiid, meanwhile, is by far and away the most dominant post scorer in the league, capable of overpowering opponents with his brute strength on one possession and following it up with Kobe-esque jumpers the next.

The two have run a ton of pick-and-rolls together — more on that in a minute — but sequences like this are a good example of the tough decisions teams have to make when one of them gets the ball in their sweet spot:

That's Evan Fournier helping all the way off of Harden, who is one pass away and will soon rank third all-time in 3-pointers made, to double Embiid in the post. Embiid could have kicked it to Harden or Tobias Harris on the other end of the court — Harden could have also made himself more available, which is a conversation for another day — but he instead calmly sinks a stepback over two defenders.

There are very few teams in the league that have the personnel to defend both Harden and Em steph curry jersey for youth biid. Even if they do, one switch puts them at risk of one of them getting a mismatch.

It'll be interesting to s mens blue swingman stephen curry jersey ee how the 76ers balance Harden's isolations and Embiid's post-ups the rest of the way, but head coach Doc Rivers has been staggering their minutes to ensure that at least one of them is always on the court. Those are the moments where they'll get to cook the most.

The two-man game

As many have mentioned since the blockbuster trade, Harden has spent most of his career playing next to athletic bigs who rim-run and play above the basket, not back-to-the-basket bullies like Embiid. Not only that, but Embiid has never been a big pick-and-roll player. He's always preferred to pop than roll, raising questions about whether or not the Kevin Love y could get on the same page.

It didn't take long to put those concerns to rest.

It was clear from Game 1 that Harden-Embiid pick-and-rolls are going to be a nightmare to defend. Play them traditionally by having the opposing big drop to the paint, and it opens the door for Harden to attack downhill, get to his floater or walk into a 3.

Double or hedge to take those options away and teams run the risk of Embiid rolling to the basket with someone like D'Angelo Russell serving as the last line of defense.

Bring an additional defender over and Harden w jordan poole jersey golden state warriors ill find the open man more often than not.

Switch, and, well, you know.

The fact that Embiid can pick-and-pop gives Harden even more space to work in the halfcourt. Embiid is a legitimate three-level scorer. Only five players have made more midrange jumpers than him this season, and he's canning 35.1 percent of his 3-point Draymond Green attempts.

Between the two of them, Harden and Embiid have an answer to pretty much anything the defense can throw at them in stephen curry jersey rebel a pick-and-roll.

Picking up NBA All-Star Merchandise the pace

Last season, only two teams averaged more fastbreak points per game than the 76ers. Prior to acquiring Harden, 13 teams were ahead of the 76ers in that category.

That shouldn't come as a huge surprise considering Philadelphia was without Ben Simmons, who is one of the best transition players in the league.

You know who else is among the best transition scorers in the league? Harden.

Harden and Simmons don't operate in quite the same way in the open court — Simmons plays with more speed whereas Harden is a bit more methodical — but Harden will still push the ball from one end of the court to the other himself, and he's not afraid to make these sorts of go-ahead passes:

Since Harden's debut, the 76ers are back to being a force in transition. That's almost certainly not a coincidence.

Living at the foul line

This was a good reminder that the 76ers are now home to two of the best foul-drawers in the league:

Goodness gracious.

That number has dropped a little since then, but the 76ers are still getting to the foul line more than every other team in the league. Harden and Embiid are constantly in attack mode, and they both know how to bait defenders into committing the types of fouls that will drive any coach crazy.

Even through five games, it's crystal clear that playing against the new-look 76ers is going to require a whole lot of discipline.

What's next?

We're still in the honeymoon period and the 76ers will face much stiffer competition in the weeks and months to come, but the Harden and Embiid pairing is off to as good of a start as anyone could've expected.

Equally as encouraging has been the play of Tyrese Maxey, who couldn't look more comfortable playing off of Harden and Embiid as a shooter and additional creator. It hasn't been quite as smooth of an adjustment for Tobias Harris, which is something to watch between now and the playoffs because the 76ers are likely going to need him to be playing at a high level to win it all.

Otherwise, all eyes will be on Philly's defense. While going from Simmons to Harden is an upgrad Rajon Rondo e offensively, it's a downgrade defensively. They haven't run into any issues yet, but it will be interesting to see how they hold up on nights where the points aren't flowing as easily.

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