Early in Harden’s Houston Rockets career, it became widely discovered that he wasn’t putting forth effort on the defensive end. In fact, Harden became notorious for being on the receiving end of memes because of his lack of defense in his early Rockets days.
What’s gotten lost in all of that is the fact that James Harden has become one of the league’s best defenders. especially as it pertains to the post. In fact, Harden is holding opponents to 32.1 percent in the post this season, which is 11th-best among players who appeared in at least 60 games.
It doesn’t get discussed because it doesn’t fit the convenient narrative, but Harden has become one of the best defenders in the league, and certainly on the Houston Rockets. On the flip side, it’s well known that Curry isn’t viewed as a top defender in the league. In fact, the Warriors have recently leaned on Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green to match up against their opponents’ best scorers.
This is because Steve Kerr knows Curry defending another elite scorer is going to always go in favor of the other team. To add some color to that, Curry has had a lower defensive field goal percentage and a lower defensive rating than Harden in each of the last three seasons. In addition, Harden has had higher defensive win shares than Curry during that same span.
It’s not even a question that Harden is a much better defender than Curry, regardless of the preconceived beliefs about his defense.
Advantage: James Harden