Better Overall Defender
Although many would lead you to believe that Harden doesn’t play defense, the numbers have proven this to be a flawed narrative. Although it may come as a surprise to many, Harden is a better defender than LeBron James, by the numbers.
Harden has a defensive field goal percentage of 41.8 percent this season, compared to LeBron’s 44.1 percent, which is just one of many examples. Harden is also averaging more deflections per game than LeBron this season, as he’s averaged 2.9 deflections per contest compared to LeBron’s 2.1. The same can be said for the 2018-19 season as well, as Harden averaged 3.5 deflections per game, which was third-most in the league, compared to LeBron’s 1.8.
In addition, Harden has averaged more steals per game than LeBron dating back to the 2014-15 season, and has averaged more blocks than LeBron in each of the last two years, which should put the “Harden doesn’t play defense” narrative to bed.
No matter what Harden does on the defensive end of the floor, we all know this narrative will never go away because it’s simply too convenient to abandon. Harden has averaged more defensive win shares than LeBron in three of the last four seasons as well, although Harden will never get praise for his defensive efforts. Although it may be unpopular to say that Harden is a better defender than LeBron, the numbers state exactly that.
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