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March 06, 2023

James Harden is having the best point guard season in Sixers history

James Harden "won the week in Philly sports," scoring 38 points in a comeback win in Milwaukee and playing as well as any Sixers point guard ever.

Saturday night was the biggest win of the Sixers' season and maybe in years. Trailing by 14 after three quarters on the road against a Bucks team with the NBA's best record, the Sixers stole a 133-130 win. James Harden played his best game in a Sixers uniform yet, going off for 38 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists while shooting five-of-nine from beyond the arc. This is the exact running mate the Sixers envisioned they were getting for Joel Embiid when they acquired Harden from Brooklyn last February. 

During his last four games this past week, Harden has averaged 24.5 points and 10.0 assists per game while shooting a wild 51.5 percent on threes. The Beard is as good of a playmaker as he's ever been. 

Every Monday here on PhillyVoice, I crown a figure who "won the week in Philly sports." This was an easy choice for Harden, playing his most efficient basketball since his sixth man days in Oklahoma City and resembling the MVP player he once was. 

I'll go one step forward: Harden is having the best single season of any Sixers point guard ever. 

I say this, but it's not as if there's exactly stiff completion. Maurice Cheeks is in the Hall of Fame, made a few All-Defense teams and was an integral role in the team's 1983 championship win, but he was more of a prototypical floor general playing alongside a few fellow Hall of Famers. His best year was averaging 15 and nine in 1986 at 29. Sixers fans would be running Harden out of town if he was putting up those numbers. 

Harden is averaging a league-leading 10.6 assists per game. No Sixer has led the league in assists since Wilt Chamberlain did so in 1968, totaling 702. Newflash: Wilt was a center. This is uncharted territory for a Sixers point guard. 

Harden's making 40.5 percent of his threes, the highest mark of his own Hall of Fame career. He's doing so while attempting 7.4 threes per game, the most he's shot since 2020 and the fourth most he's shot in a year overall. I consider Allen Iverson to be a shooting guard or combo guard, so Harden's 22.1 points per game are the most a Sixers point guard has averaged. The next closest is Dana Barros' 20.6 points per night in his 1995 All-Star campaign (via Stathead). 

Joel Embiid has never had a better star teammate.

I am still skeptical of the Sixers postseason prospects. I know our Sixers beat writer Kyle Neubeck is much more bullish on them than me

This is firmly "I'll believe it when I see it" territory for me,  much like it was with the Phillies before their 2022 pennant run, washing away all their hair-pulling moments and woes that had long plagued them. I am so used to second-round burnouts that I won't have faith until I'm watching a Sixers Eastern Conference Finals game for the first time since I've had concrete memories. I've had a playoff crumbling on my calendar every May for the past five years. 

Maybe Harden leaves and, in a head-scratching move, goes back to Houston this summer. The Sixers cannot allow that to happen. I gave some angry thoughts on that last week. That would add even more doom and gloom if there's yet another postseason failure for the franchise. 

For this regular season though? Harden is playing his best basketball since his MVP peak in Houston. Soak up wins like that comeback thriller in Milwaukee. Rally around this stretch run before the playoffs and try to forget the pain of springs past for a second.

Who won last week: Joel Embiid

2023 Who Won the Week Tally:

James Harden: 2

Joel Embiid: 2

Mac McClung: 1

Haason Reddick: 1

Kenny Gainwell: 1

DeVonta Smith: 1

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