76ers' Doc Rivers Wants James Harden to Play Like 'Scoring Magic Johnson'

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIOctober 4, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 12, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said that he wants guard James Harden to be a "scoring Magic Johnson" for his team this year.

Rivers made the remarks in a conversation on NBA Today (45-second mark).

"I think we've talked so much about him being a facilitator ... but I need him to be James Harden too," Rivers said. "If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don't know ... but that's what I want him to be.

"I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, 'Do both.'"

Harden was a dominant scorer in his heyday, notably leading the NBA in points per game from 2017-18 to 2019-20 with the Houston Rocket. But the past two years with the Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and 76ers have seen him defer more on the scoring end and become more of a facilitator.

He's averaged 10.5 assists per game over the last two years. His 21.0 points per game last year was his lowest mark since 2011-12, when he was the third option on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that featured Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

As for the Johnson comparison, Magic was best known for his remarkable facilitating abilities on the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, who won five NBA titles under his leadership. He led the NBA in assists four times and averaged 11.2 per game for his career.

A "scoring Magic Johnson" would be an incredible asset (and a likely MVP candidate) for the 76ers, who already sport one of the game's brightest stars in Joel Embiid alongside a solid supporting cast that includes Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey.

We'll soon find out how Harden and the 76ers fare this year as they start the season on Oct. 18 at the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics.