When Jimmy Butler was asked about guarding three of the best players in the league, he gave a reluctant answer about the Houston Rockets’ James Harden.
When anyone thinks of the word ‘unguardable’ in the NBA, Houston Rockets star James Harden is usually one of the first names that come to mind. The point of defending is to stop your opponent from scoring the ball and, well, no one’s been able to do that well against him since he arrived in Space City.
When the NBA shut down on March 11th, James wasn’t having his greatest season yet was still leading the league in points per game for the third straight season (34.4). His offensive brilliance has even earned praise from the greatest Houston Rocket of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon, as well as several, likely less-biased former players.
Current Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler was once asked on the podcast Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles to rank three of the most unguardable players in the game today.
“Let’s do three. Let’s do Harden, KD, LeBron,” proposed Richardson. “Respect to all of those guys, please don’t try to score 90 on me,” joked Butler in response. “One, KD. Two, probably Bron. Because with Bron, he’s 6-10, 270 pounds running the floor flat. You gonna step in front of that?” he continued.
When it came to what separated LeBron James and Kevin Durant from Harden, it came down to defense. “Don’t get me wrong, James is tough too,” said Butler. “But KD — he guards. LeBron, same thing.”
Butler then seemed to take an understanding approach as to why James Harden doesn’t have the defensive acumen of the other two. “I think James [Harden] can guard. I just think that [he’s] asked to do a lot,” said the five-time All-Star. “He’s exerting all this energy on offense. That’s how the team that he’s on has an opportunity to win games.”
It’s no secret that the Rockets have a heavy reliance on the durability of Harden, oftentimes to a fault. Still, he’s managed to remain one of the league’s best players despite being overused. Overall, it’s hard to find fault with putting those three players in any sort of order, as they all have their unguardable qualities and are three of the greats in the league.
As Butler later stated, all three are undoubtedly future Hall of Famers, so it will be up to the next few seasons to determine which ones can continue to add to their legacies the most.