One of the biggest dilemmas over the first few weeks of the season for the LA Clippers has been making adjustments on the fly to account for the addition of James Harden. Incorporating him into the offense while adjusting to their lack of wing depth has proved a big challenge.
Typically, teams will wait at least a few weeks to months into the season before making a trade of the magnitude the Clippers did. The general idea being that you see what things look like with the group you knew you had all summer, and if things are not materializing the way you would like, you can hash out a trade.
This is especially true when pursuing a trade candidate that is not highly coveted. As big of a name as James Harden is, teams were not exactly knocking down the 76ers’ doors to acquire him.
But since the Clippers traded for Harden not even 10 days into the season, a lot of difficulties have come their way. Their adjustments are yet to produce the results they have been hoping for. Head Coach Tyronn Lue’s most recent strategy of “playing through James (Harden)” may utterly end any hopes of contending for a championship.
Playing through James Harden could doom the Clippers
When asked about Harden’s fit with the team so far, Lue candidly said that he is trying too hard to fit in, and that the Clippers need Harden to simply be himself. Lue expressing that he wants Harden to play to his strengths is understandable, and lines up with what he has already been saying about how the team will flourish.
But it is the last part of Lue’s statement that is concerning. Playing “through James Harden” is not what you want to be doing when you have two-time Finals MVP and proven winner Kawhi Leonard on your roster.
Harden can absolutely play a vital role in the offense and could theoretically even be one of the catalysts to this team going deep in the playoffs if he is utilized correctly. But operating the offense primarily through him would appear at this point to be a massive mistake.
Taking the ball out of the hands of your best player will almost always lead to disastrous results. Clippers fans should hope that this experiment of playing through Harden does not last long.