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Daily Rocket Science: On Harden’s Defense

Feb 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) reacts to being fouled by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah won in overtime 117-114. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) reacts to being fouled by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah won in overtime 117-114. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
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Is James Harden’s Defense really as bad as it seems? Shaq says so but current player Jason Terry disagrees.

James Harden has produced for the public many lowlight reels of him slacking off on the defensive side of the floor, and it earned him the lowly Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP award. There’s no denying the fact that he takes some plays off, and there’s no doubt that it hurts the Houston Rockets when he does that.

However, that doesn’t mean he’s the only star who slacks from time to time. Every big-minutes player ends up taking little breaks on defense every so often; it just seems that the Beard does a bad job of hiding those breaks or takes a little too many of them.

Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web

Jamie Cooper of Dime Magazine questions whether or not Steph Curry is just as bad Harden when it comes to slacking on defense. The issue didn’t come up until after Jason Terry was quoted saying that they’re equally bad, but the question may be one worth asking (if you’re a Rockets fan at least). The JET’s quote:

"I can show you as many James Harden clips of a guy going back door on him as I can show you Steph Curry clips where he quits on a play or a guy just blows right by him."

Not that the world needs another argument that Harden should’ve been named to an All-NBA team, but Darren Yuvan of The Dream Shake offered a different perspective on the snub. Everyone’s been looking at the Beard’s offensive stats, but Yuvan compared his defensive stats to Klay Thompson’s, and yet again the stats yielded favor to Harden.

Well, it’s got to be about the defense then, right? After all, Harden regressed. Well, so did Thompson.

James Harden’s defensive plus-minus dropped from a +1.0 last year to a -0.4 this year. Thompson? He dropped from a -1.0 to a -2.2. So not only was Klay’s regression in that category almost identical to Harden’s, his defensive plus-minus was a full 1.8 worse than Harden’s overall.

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On a separate note, the Rockets have a potential future star on their hands in Clint Capela. Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report mentioned the young center as one of the ten biggest up-and-comers of next season, depending on if he gets the playing time that Dwight Howard would leave open if he ends up playing elsewhere.

The Rockets will fill some of those vacancies around Capela, but he should still be in line for major minutes. They played markedly betterwith him (plus-3.1 net rating) than without (minus-2.0) this season, and he could prove even more valuable under new head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Capela‘s quickness, athleticism and willingness to play his role should make him an excellent screen-setter in the uptempo attack.

To go back to the original topic, Harden’s defense may be hilarious and embarrassing at times, but the team as a whole will have to improve on that end of the floor if next season is going to be any better than this one. We can only hope for the best at this point.

Send our Editor any Rockets-related article/video/tweet/gram/vine that we may have missed via Twitter direct message to @TTOTambz.

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