James Harden making big impact on Sixers with his passing, high IQ

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TORONTO–The James Harden era with the Philadelphia 76ers has been a peculiar one thus far. He hasn’t exactly had any of those big scoring games that he has been known for throughout his career, but he has made a big impact on this team regardless of that.

Harden’s basketball IQ is very high so he understands where guys need the ball and what he needs to do in order to make sure they are involved. In two games thus far in Philadelphia’s Round 1 series with the Toronto Raptors, Harden is averaging 18 points and 10 assists. The 18 points are not what people are used to with him, but The Beard has helped his teammates in a big way.

Tyrese Maxey is averaging 30.5 points and shooting 57.1% from deep through two games while Tobias Harris is averaging 23 points and shooting 75% from deep. Those numbers are high because Harden is making sure they get those open looks.

“He’s a great passer and I think people get lost in his scoring numbers,” said coach Doc Rivers at shootaround on Wednesday. “When you look at what James has been doing, he’s been unbelievable. What James brings to us is what we absolutely needed before we had James. We needed a guy who could run our team, who can get guys into space, that they can make plays for our guys.”

After the All-Star break, when Harden joined the team, Maxey shot 48% from deep as he found himself getting plenty of wide-open looks by playing next to Harden. Harris had a similar uptick as he shot 40% from deep after the break compared to 34.5% before the break.

“It’s no coincidence that Tyrese was shooting better and Tobias,” Rivers continued. “Because their shots that they had been open on, but no one saw them and James sees them.”

Harden’s IQ and understanding of basketball have helped him a ton in terms of understanding his new teammates and helping Joel Embiid succeed as well.

“James is just smart,” said Rivers. “James’ high IQ, any ATO we run, he knows what he needs to do before we say ‘Hey, we need you to do this’. He’s just a very smart basketball player. James has seen every coverage that you could possibly do and I think that’s been really good for Joel because we talk about trapping and the different things teams do to Joel, James explains it well to him.”

Harden may not be putting up the major scoring numbers that he has been known for in his career, but his impact on Maxey and the rest of the Sixers has been obvious.

“Just try to make the right plays, man,” said Harden after Game 1. “It’s not about scoring, it’s about doing the little things and making the right plays. When you got a guy like Tyrese who got it going, you gotta make sure he gets shots and I was trying to be aggressive, they were helping, they were knocking down shots, and for him, getting to the paint.”

This post originally appeared on Sixers Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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