3 reasons the 76ers can't afford to allow the Rockets to poach James Harden

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Two / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages
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2. The Sixers can't replace Harden's skillset

In today's NBA, you can't lose a star and not get anything in return. Not only does it set your team back, it also riles up your fanbase. Sure it may seem like the latter should be the least of a team's worries, but revenue and ticket sales will always matter to ownership, and rightfully so (which might be why the Rockets want Harden back in the first place). 

This is especially the case for the Sixers, who can't replace what Harden brings on the floor. Who would they turn to as their primary facilitator and shot-creator if Harden leaves?

Tyrese Maxey?

Perhaps out of necessity, but Maxey doesn't quite possess this skillset. Take the 2021-22 season, in which Ben Simmons and the Sixers were at a stalemate, prior to him getting traded for Harden.

The Sixers utilized Maxey to fill the void of Simmons and he averaged 16.9 points and 4.6 assists through 51 games without Simmons. Maxey's 4.6 assists were far lower than Harden's league-leading 10.7 assists in 2022-23 and 10.5 assists in 2021-22.

Now compare this to Simmons, who never averaged fewer than 6.9 assists as the Sixers' point guard. Maxey's 3-point efficiency even dipped without Harden, as he made 38.5 percent of his attempts from deep without Uno in those 51 games, compared to 55 percent of his treys in the 21 games with Uno in 2021-22.

Maxey's scoring even improved with Harden, from 16.9 points to 18 points two seasons ago. In 2022-23, Maxey had his best season with Harden as the lead facilitator, posting averages of 20.3 points on 43.4 percent from deep, and even 45.5 percent of catch-and-shoot threes.

Clearly Maxey isn't as productive on offense as the lead facilitator as he is when playing alongside an elite playmaker, so putting Maxey in the Harden role, so to speak, isn't the best way to use him, as it isn't his skillset.