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When the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets swapped stars back in February, the Sixers hoped that James Harden had plenty of gas left in the tank.

While he was still averaging a double-double in points and assists while putting up over 20 points per game, the league-wide narrative hinted that Harden was on a steep decline.

It’s true the Sixers didn’t get the Houston Rockets version of Harden, which is something that even Joel Embiid admitted following the 2022 playoff run. But just because the Sixers weren’t getting MVP production out of the ten-time All-Star doesn’t mean they got a completely washed version of him either.

Harden’s scoring has been way down since his final full season in Houston when he led the league by averaging 34 points per game. But he could still flash his playmaking abilities with the Sixers, averaging over ten assists through 21 games.

As assist numbers won’t tell the whole story, Sports Info Solutions rolled out a new statistic on Monday after doing a deep-dive on some of the league’s top ball-handlers. The “advantages created” statistic measures when a ball-handler creates an opportunity for themselves or a teammate for what’s considered to be a “high-quality shot.” 

While Harden didn’t overtake ball-handling duties entirely when he joined the Sixers, it was clear he was the team’s most reliable option as Tyrese Maxey is still learning to play the point at the top level. Based on the new metric, Harden is still elite in the playmaking category.

In the top five, Harden is fourth in the “advantages created” category. By creating 25.4 advantages per 100 possessions and 88.1 creation opportunities per 100 possessions throughout the year, Harden ranks in front of some of the league’s top playmakers, such as Memphis’ Ja Morant and Portland’s Damian Lillard.

In front of Harden is the Oklahoma City star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Atlanta’s Trae Young, and Dallas’ Luka Doncic. While the Sixers need Harden to improve his scoring next year — especially in the postseason — it’s clear their big trade acquisition is far from a washed-up player as he brings a lot of value to the team beyond the typical stat sheets. 

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.