Following the All-Star game, Giannis Antetokounmpo had some interesting remarks about Houston Rockets guard James Harden’s defense.
We’ve all heard the takes regarding Houston Rockets guard James Harden‘s “bad defense”, even though that’s an immensely erroneous take. It’s been the longest-running joke in the NBA that Harden doesn’t play defense, although anyone who watches the games can see how inaccurate that is.
We’ve surely pointed out why this is an outdated take but it seems that many have continued to overlook Harden’s greatness on that end of the floor. The most recent example was Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo says the Team Giannis offensive strategy in the 4th quarter was to go at whoever James Harden was guarding pic.twitter.com/pXV3Blz49P
— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) February 17, 2020
The Greek Freak was unveiling his team’s defensive strategy and said it was simply to feed the ball to whoever The Beard was defending in the fourth quarter, which is blasphemous. For starters, we rarely see defense played in the All-Star game regardless of who the player is, but on top of that, Team Giannis only scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, which was their lowest-scoring quarter of the game. Needless to say, this was also an ineffective strategy.
But on top of that, this was a questionable strategy based on the empirical data. Harden is averaging 2.2 defensive win shares this season, which is tied with Jimmy Butler, who many believe is one of the best defenders in the league. Harden has also outperformed Marcus Smart in this defensive metric, and Smart is essentially a lock to make the All-Defensive team every year.
On top of that, Harden’s defensive field goal percentage is 43.8 percent this season, which is tied for second-best on the Houston Rockets. This is also the best Harden has ever fared in this category, which can’t be overlooked considering how stellar his defense was during the 2018-19 season also.
Harden has been one of the better post defenders in the league this season, as he’s held opposing players to a ferocious 26.8 percent in the post, which is 14th-best in the league, and is also better than Giannis, who has a post-defensive percentage of 28.6 percent. This has been a career-high for Harden and he’s officially ranked within the top 94.9 percentile, which is 15th-best in the league, and also better than Giannis, who ranks 21st.
This is likely Giannis trying to take another jab at Harden being outspoken about being snubbed for the MVP award, which obviously went in Antetokounmpo’s favor. This also comes less than a week after Giannis slandered Harden for “not passing the ball” although The Beard averages 7.3 assists, which ranks ninth-best in the league.
Harden was valid in being outspoken about being snubbed so considering the historical year he had during the 2018-19 season. But even if Giannis isn’t happy about Harden being vocal about this, it’s foolish for Giannis to continue to take shots at Harden. It’s even more ludicrous for Giannis to throw shade at Harden’s defense, especially considering the fact that Harden has been a better defender than Giannis this season.
So why do the jokes continue about Harden being a poor defender when the numbers say otherwise? Hopefully, the jokes will stop because the data suggests Harden is one of the best defenders in the league. But the fact this was an actual strategy is mind-boggling, and it proved to be ineffective yet again.