Who are the favorites in the NBA next season now that James Harden signed with Philadelphia?
The Philadelphia 76ers title hopes for next season are stronger than ever after reports out of Philly claim Harden is staying put for another two seasons.
The Philadelphia 76ers are all in this year as they look to bring an NBA title to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time since 1983. They have hung on to James Harden, and have a potential MVP in Joel Embiid, but does that make them favorites to win it all next year?
Harden signs two year deal, eyeing title
Reports out of Philly say that James Harden is not only staying with the Sixers, but took a pay cut to allow more cap space to attract more championship pieces of the puzzle to Philadelphia. Harden entered the free agent market with a player option that would have been worth $47.4 million, but declined that and after weeks of deliberation he has pledged the next two years of his career to the 76ers. The two year deal is worth $69 million, which means he will make $33 million next season, more than a $14 million cut from what he would have made had he signed the player option.
With this move, Harden’s motive is clear. He wants the one thing that has eluded him in his NBA career, an NBA Championship. The new deal shows he sees this side as a potential champion, especially when you consider his partnership with Joel Embiid.
For many people Embiid was the MVP of the league last year. He averaged 30.6 ppg, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assist throughout the season, but when James Harden came to town in February Embiid’s ppg went up to 32.6, while averaging 10.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists while shooting 50% from the field.
Pay cut means cap space for Philly
A little more wiggle room in terms of cap space means the Sixers can go out and get players with championship experience. Philly wasted no time in brining in an experienced vet with championship pedigree. He won it all with Milwaukee two seasons ago, and then went to Miami and helped them get to the Conference Finals last season. The defensive stopper may be 37, but the heart and smarts he plays with will certainly help the Sixers come post season time.
Meanwhile guys like Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle have developed into key role players and with another year of playoff experience under their belt, the Sixers are starting to look like a real contender.
But it’s not just the Sixers that the Sixers have to worry about. The strongest teams in the league are only getting stronger.
Beasts in the East
In the East, Boston are the defending conference champions. Defending is a very good way to describe them. They were the best defensive team in the league, led by their Defensive Player of the year Marcus Smart. They have kept the base of the squad led by NBA First Team selection Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who blew up in the Finals.
The Nets are a question mark at the moment. If they can keep Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, they would obviously be a threat to take the East. If they can’t then Brooklyn will fade into a team that was on the cusp but never made the leap to real contenders.
Miami beat the Sixers in the playoffs last year thanks to some brilliant performances from Jimmy Butler. Their big man Bam Adebayo is one of the best in the league, and could make life difficult for Embiid but you have to wonder is Miami have what it takes to make it to the Conference Finals for a third time in four years.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are the last of the viable contenders in the East, but they have shown how tough they can be in the playoffs, winning it all two years ago.
The bookmakers have yet to release odds after Harden signed, but before the Sixers knew that he was staying in Philadelphia, these were the odds to win the 2023 title:
Warriors and Co. in the West
In the West, we have to start with the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have yet to lose in the playoffs when all three start and finish a series. As long as those three stay healthy, they should be the favorites coming into the season.
The young Memphis Grizzlies are only getting better, after making a meteoric rise from one of the bottom feeders of the NBA to a contender for the Western Conference Finals in just a couple of years. It won’t be easy getting out of the West, but they showed the Warriors this year that they can put up a fight.
The Clippers are poised to make a run if they can get a healthy Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George can be the scoring machine he always has been the Clippers will be one of the strongest teams in the West. The addition of John Wall only makes them better, and we could be talking about another NBA Big Three by midseason if all goes according to plan on the blue side of LA.
Phoenix made a major move by keeping Deandre Ayton in the free agency market. The Suns were in the Finals two seasons ago, and finished the season with the best record in the league heading into the playoffs. They have Chris Paul and Devin Booker on the perimeter, but with an aging Paul this could a do or die season for the Suns.
Dallas and Los Angeles I will group under the same umbrella. Who knows what they are going to look like next year? A lot of people think the Mavs got lucky getting to the Western Conference Finals last year, and losing Jalen Brunson will take it’s toll on Jason Kidd’s side.
The Lakers had a disastrous season, but they were without Anthony Davis for most of the year, and Russell Westbrook looked like a fraction of himself. If both can stay healthy and return close to the level they were playing a couple years ago, the Lakers could have a chance to make noise in the West.
While it is not going to be easy, the Sixers have made the offseason moves they wanted to make, and got a break in the cap with Harden taking a pay cut. Doc Rivers just announced the team will be taking an offseason trip to Charleston, South Carolina to get the team gelling and focused on winning a title. The City of Brotherly Love is all in on their mission to bring a title to town for the first time in 40 years.