Home Illustration James Harden sets top priority for NBA offseason

James Harden sets top priority for NBA offseason


James Harden hasn’t seemed like the best version of himself lately. After averaging just 24 points per game two seasons ago after leading the league in scoring 34 points per game in 2019-20, Harden followed in 2021-22 with his production slipping.

With the Brooklyn Nets, Harden had just 22 points per game in 44 outings. After being traded to the Sixers, that number dropped to 21 points in 21 games. And when the playoffs rolled around, Harden was averaging 18 points, which was the first time he had scored less than 20 points per game in the playoffs since 2012.

Fans called Harden washed away, while league executives anonymously pointed to his decline and expressed doubts about his ability to return to his superstar playing ways.

But Harden is convinced that’s not his true form these days. During the 2021 playoffs with the Nets, Harden suffered a serious hamstring injury which forced him to rehabilitate throughout the 2021 offseason. Throughout his time with the Nets and the Sixers last season, the hamstring injury hampered Harden.

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After Philadelphia’s Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs in May, Harden admitted he wasn’t one hundred percent. However, he made it clear he was looking forward to having an offseason without rehab. So far, it looks like the plan is going well.

“I’ve had the luxury of not having to deal with serious injuries – with surgeries or otherwise – my whole career. But for the last two years I’ve dealt with hamstring issues, which there’s nothing to play for.” Harden told Adrienne Faurote high hour. I’m using this summer to do something for myself, to make sure I get back to the elite level that I know I can be and will be. So that’s priority number one.”

Currently, Harden is an unrestricted free agent after the 10-time star turned down his $47 million player option a few weeks ago. While Harden could test the market and strike a new deal with a different organization, all signs point to him returning to the 76ers.

While Harden was a stellar deadline addition as he brought value to the playing department, the Sixers need him to be much better next season as their plan is to go for the NBA title. The fact that Harden is back to having a typical NBA offseason for himself is a good sign for next year.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.

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