James Harden Is a Better Defender Than Given Credit For


November 4, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick (4) moves the ball against the defense of Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that James Harden has top notch talent, but there is also no secret that Harden lacks the drive of being a good defender. It’s not that Harden doesn’t have the ability or can’t do it; he has certainly shown flashes that he can be a good defender.  He just doesn’t do it often.

Everyone knows Harden can get it done offensively that could be his reason for his lack of defense. Now that Harden is the number one option in Houston he’s called upon to do more than he was being the third option in OKC.

Most would say Harden reserves his energy for the offensive end by not playing defense since he is the number one option and was fifth in the league in minutes this year.

According to James Harden Synergy Sports’ chart, he is poor when guarding players that isolate him.

Last year out 62 shots attempted out of isolation Harden allowed 32 to be made which is a 50.8 percent field goal percentage.  His chart also shows he is average at guarding guys off of screens opposing players shot 40.7 percent when Harden guarded off of screens.

One thing Harden does have going for him is that he is a very good post defender as he only allowed 26.7 field goal percentage in that situation.

Nov 29, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce (34) moves the ball against the defense of Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

In OKC, Harden was a good defender for the Thunder. Granted as the sixth man most of the time he may have been guarding guys from opposing benches but when it was time for Harden to step up defensively on say a guy like Kobe Bryant often times than not he did. Though Harden was a better defender in OKC than he has been for Houston, he was always capable of being better.

If the Rockets want to take the next step into contention Harden will need to improve on the defensive end. He has said on a few occasions that the next step for him is focusing on the defensive end on a consistent basis.

A report from Bobby Gonzalez of Sheridan Hoops informed that Harden is better defensively as advertised in his observations from Team USA training camp. He had this to say about Harden.

I spoke to several members of the USAB staff, and behind the scenes they were amazed at how good James Harden has become as an overall player since his last tour with Team USA two years ago. The fact that he came in and was focused on being a lockdown defender blew them away.

This is good news to hear about Harden, especially when most of the guys at USA training camp he would be defending are the premier players at their position. Harden can showcase more of his defensive improvement in the FIBA World Cup and hopefully from there he can carry that into next season for Houston. If indeed Harden is improving defensively as he vowed, he would at the end of the season the Rockets will take the next leap as a defensive unit.

Houston signed Trevor Ariza this offseason who is known for his solid defense, and they also have All-NBA defenders in Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard.

Adding improvement in Harden’s defense could further solidify Houston as contenders and solidify Harden as a top ten player in the NBA.