Many NBA fans consider James Harden as one of the best players in the league because of his offensive prowess. For me, however, an NBA player considered to be a top five or ten player in the league must be a respectable two-way player, and Harden is certainly not. It is easy to see that Harden is one of the NBA’s worst defenders, making it a bit head-scratching that he is in the conversation as one of the league’s most talented players.
Harden’s defense is nothing more than abysmal. He plays with no effort, constantly letting his player beat him off of the dribble as he tries for an always unsuccessful back tap. Furthermore, he watches the ball, losing his man on backdoor cuts and giving up numerous layups. His effort on the boards is not much better, as he constantly lets his man cut in front of his face as he watches them grab the rebound and finish near the rim.
Not all basketball players have the physical tools to play defense at a high level, but every play has the effort to be respectable on that end. Unfortunately for the Houston Rockets, Harden does not give any effort on that end of the floor.
With these undeniable flaws, it is a miracle that the Rockets were the 12th-best defensive team in the league last year, giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions. Credit should be given to Dwight Howard, who erased many of Harden’s mistakes on defense. This past season, Howard was 19th in the league in opponent’s field goal percentage at the rim out of 67 players who qualified.
Anyone who thinks Harden is one of the best players in the league needs to reevaluate their position. Even though Harden is a potent offensive player who can score and pass at a high level, he gives up just as many points on defense as he scores on offense, making him unworthy of such high praise at this time.