With some offensive load taken off his shoulders, will the Beard become a better defender?
Last season was a great start for James Harden on the defensive end of the court. He was far more alert on defense than in years like 2014 and 2016. With a little bit more help on the court with him, he was able to put some more focus on that part of the game. Now, more help is on the way and that could be great for the Rockets and their defense.
Even with the better year last season on the defensive end, he is still an average defender at best. However, he is certainly not the type of defender that people make him out to be on Vine or YouTube. He has always been pretty good at playing the passing lanes and never had averaged less than 1 steal per game in his NBA career. But if you search “James Harden defense” on Twitter, all you will see is criticism.
James Harden’s Defense Will Improve
Harden’s defensive woes have always been blamed on his massive offensive load he has each game. While the Rockets have been able to hide him on defense by putting him on the worst offensive wing normally, that strategy does not always work. It is tough to hide James against teams like the Warriors. How will it get better next season?
Next year with the addition of Chris Paul, Harden has someone that can take some pressure off of him on the offensive end. With the newfound energy, he can focus a little bit more on the defensive side of the court and maybe become an above-average defender. Add Carmelo Anthony to the equation potentially and the Beard might go from being made fun of to being feared on the defensive end in a matter of a couple years.
He Has the Tools
James Harden has always had the tools and athleticism to succeed on defense. He is a fantastic post defender for a guard, and that is a well-known fact. It has just been about the effort he gives. Instead of a video showing his poor defense, watch this great one showing what he can do on that end of the court.
This video shows some highlights from Harden’s years as a Rocket and proves that he has the ability to be a good defensive player. Will he ever contend for Defensive Player of the Year? No, but he has the skill to help Houston on that end of the court. Hopefully, with less of an offensive burden on his shoulders, he will prove the haters wrong next season.
Send that video above to anyone who tells you that James Harden never ever plays defense.
*All stats via Basketball-Reference*