James Harden Home Debut Warmup

James Harden has transformed Philadelphia’s offense since his faithful debut almost two weeks ago. The Sixers are 5-0 throughout Harden’s first five games as a part of the team. James is developing great chemistry with superstar center Joel Embiid and rising star Tyrese Maxey. The pick and roll with Harden and Embiid has been nearly unstoppable because of their dynamic fit.

Maxey is thriving as the teams’ third star because of James’ playmaking abilities. This newly formed big three of Harden, Embiid, and Maxey is taking the league by storm.But, Harden’s pairing with Matisse Thybulle and Georges Niang has been critical as well. That was obvious in Philadelphia’s thrilling win against the Chicago Bulls , where they both shined. 

Matisse Thybulle

Thybulle’s Downside 

Matisse Thybulle has always been known for his all-NBA level defensive talents. Thybulle is an elite perimeter defender who can give any star a hard time. Matisse can close out, recover, and defend one-on-one at a very high standard. That alone puts Thybulle in the conversation to start on almost every NBA team, but the glaring issue is his limited offensive impact.

Matisse has been an inconsistent shooter with little to no shot creation nor versatility.  He’s been a liability at times because of his inability to space the floor. That allows teams to significantly drop off of him at the perimeter, double Joel Embiid, or play effective zone defense. Thybulle has dealt with these issues in all three of his professional years. But, thanks to James Harden, Thybulle is finally unlocking his offensive potential. 

Offensive Development

Matisse may have his struggles shooting the ball, but he’s always shown promise as a backdoor cutter. Thybulle’s useful ability to cut to the basket wasn’t utilized very often until this season because of Embiid’s improved playmaking and Harden’s court vision. Before Harden, Matisse and the entire Sixers roster for that matter, lacked a floor general who could make everyone around him flourish. 

Now that the Sixers have that in James Harden, Thybulle’s offensive production has noticeably increased. Harden detected Thybulle cutting in motion from the baseline and the top of the key. With James’ precise passing and Matisse’s quick cutting, it’s an easy two almost every time. Thybulle’s recent play has undoubtedly caused an all-around increase of confidence in the third-year forward. Matisse no longer overthinks when he’s open on the perimeter and lets it fly with a confident release. He’s averaging a career-high 6.8 points per game on 64.3 effective field goal percentage.

Matisse Thybulle contributed 12 points on 4-5 shooting from the field in tonight’s win against the Chicago Bulls. Thybulle commented on his two-man game with him and James Harden stating “Just continuing to learn things on the fly… He sees things before they happen.” (via Tom Moore of Bucks County Courier Times)

Georges Niang

Philadelphia’s 2nd Unit

It’s no secret that Philadelphia’s second unit is having its shares of struggles throughout the last few games. From Furkan Korkmaz’s ice cold shooting, Paul Millsap’s struggles at the center position, Shake Milton’s decision making, and Danny Green’s inconsistency. The bench is indeed struggling and this could be a legit concern come playoff time if things don’t fall into place. But, Georges Niang has been the only bright spot coming off the bench and he’s quickly turned into a fan favorite because of it. 

With or without James Harden, Niang was a perfect free agent signing for the Sixers. His textbook fit as a floor spacing big was essential for Joel Embiid, who gets his bread and butter within the perimeter. Niang has done what’s expected of him as a reserve and he’s been a great fit on and off the court. Georges had his shooting struggles throughout the year like all perimeter shooters do. But, for the most part Niang provided as a floor spacer, interior scorer (at times), low-post defender, and a passionate teammate. That of course was before the blockbuster acquisition of James Harden.

Niang-Harden Fit

Niang’s production off the bench has taken a significant leap since he started sharing the hardwood with James. He and Harden compliment each other extremely well because of their respectable abilities. When James gets double teamed or trapped, Georges excels in the catch and shoot from Harden’s gravity. Harden uses his on-ball gravity to create a perfect perimeter opportunity for Niang. Georges has greatly benefitted from Harden’s playmaking as he’s been an elite three-point shooter over the last few games. The fit has been so perfect that fans are proposing the idea of starting him over the struggling Tobias Harris. Niang is averaging 9.2 points per game and shooting 42.9% from beyond the arc since the all-star break.

Georges racked up an exciting 14 points on 4-7 three-point shooting in Philly’s win over Chicago. Niang is loving life with James Harden as he told the media in his post-game availability: “it’s a dream come true.” (via Lauren Rosen of the Philadelphia 76ers)