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The bad news for the Philadelphia 76ers after two games is they're winless after falling 90-88 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. The good news is James Harden has been fantastic, and at this early juncture that's a far more important development. 

You might say Harden has looked different than last season, and that's quite literal. He looks different. Noticeably trimmer. Also, at least in Thursday's loss to Milwaukee, he was different, looking positively Kevin Durant-ish in the midrange, the analytically maligned area of the floor he has traditionally ignored. 

Over 65 games with the Nets and Sixers last season, Harden made just 13 shots between 15-19 feet, per NBA.com shot tracking. During his last full season with the Rockets, 2019-20, he made just eight. On Thursday alone, Harden made five jumpers from this range. 

Add in three more makes from 10-14 feet, where his once-deadly but recently largely abandoned floater was on point, and Harden converted on eight midrange shots against the Bucks. Last season, he never made more than three in a single game, and he only made more than one twice. 

Through two games, Harden is 12 for 16 from all midrange spots, per Cleaning the Glass. After Thursday's loss, when asked about his midrange uptick, he said he was just taking what the Bucks' defense was giving him, but defenses have been trying to give him that shot for years. He just refused to take it. 

Now, look at the variety in this shot chart:

Harden appears to have a good chunk of his quickness back, but he's still not completely blowing by defenders and he's not going to have the same vertical pop to finish and/or draw fouls at the rim. Operating in this intermediate space, a soft spot against dropping defenders, is a natural release valve and should yield significant returns should Harden stay on this path.