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Looking at James Harden’s defense

This is James Harden’s first season playing major minutes as the focal point of an NBA offense. And not just any NBA offense. Backed by Harden’s ability to turn himself into a one man fast break three or four times a quarter, the Rockets play with turbo boosters at all times. Every 48 minutes he participates in 99.42 possessions, per NBA.com/Stats, which, by a wide margin, leads all players averaging at least 20 minutes per game. Speaking of minutes, he’s played 1798 of them, more than anybody in the entire league.

When he’s on the court, Harden is expected to ignite Houston’s eighth ranked offense by relentlessly attacking the rim (he also leads the league in free-throw makes and attempts) in transition, off pick-and-rolls, and whenever he’s isolated with space on the perimeter.

But offense isn’t everything. Also a new experience: Harden is matched up against opposing starting backcourts on a night to night basis.  How’s he doing?

When Harden is on the court, Houston gives up 104.2 points per 100 possessions, good for a bottom 10 caliber defense. When he’s off, that number drops to 101.5 (for reference, the Miami Heat are currently allowing 101.4 points per 100 possessions).

According to 82Games.com, opposing shooting guards are averaging a 15.1 PER going up against Harden. (He occasionally plays small forward, but rarely, and in that limited time the opposing PER is 15.2.) In today’s NBA, shooting guard might be the least productive position. Per Hoopdata, the league average PER among off guards who’ve appeared in at least 20 games and average at least 25 minutes per game is 15.1.

There are obviously several different variables to take into account here, such as team defense and specific match-ups, but from these numbers we’re able to deduce that Harden holds his positional opposition to their collective average. Sounds good. But if you actually watch Rockets games you know his defensive body of work hasn’t been as consistent as it probably could be. And at times, it’s downright laughable.

By design, whenever he’s on the weakside, Harden (and the rest of Houston’s perimeter defenders) will slide to the paint, leaving his man open, dissuading penetration into the lane, and baiting the ball-handler to throw a difficult cross-court pass. On most half-court possessions, Harden gravitates towards the ball like a moth to a dim porch light. He watches plays unfold with the body language of a non-participant, gluing his eyes to the ball far too much when it’s on his own side of the court. And he gambles quite often. Here he is reaching in on a drive by Gerald Wallace, leaving his man (Joe Johnson) open on the wing.

This particular gamble pays off (temporarily). But any defense will suffer in the long term when one of their players does it as often as Harden has.

The expectation here isn’t for Harden to become Tony Allen; he’s a human, and the amount of energy exerted when he has the ball deserves a nightly standing ovation. But there are a few cases throughout the league where high usage perimeter players can still give their teams above average defense on a quarter to quarter basis. To nobody’s surprise, these are also the very best players in the league: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Durant, just to name a few. Right now Harden is far from that.

Rehashing a question Grantland’s Zach Lowe alluded to earlier this week: at what point do we stop using offensive responsibility as an excuse for awful defense. In this specific case I don’t believe the question needs a response right now, but as the playoffs near, the answer should become more and more important.

Nearly a quarter of Harden’s defensive possessions end in him covering a pick-and-roll ball-handler, per Synergy. I watched a large number of them, and a majority of them weren’t pretty. Not all, but a majority.

Call it sluggish, lethargic, or just plain lazy, defense like this is unacceptable for a heavy minute rotational player, let alone an NBA All-Star. When the screen comes, Harden slides above it (so far so good) then, instead of getting low and sliding with Danilo Gallinari (a taller, slower player), cutting him off at the free-throw line, Harden stands straight up at the elbow, bends at the waist, then waives his arm in desperation. It’s the type of defense someone would play if cement boots were fastened to their feet, and against pick-and-rolls Harden does it often.

More times than not, as the ball-handler hurls himself towards the basket, Harden lays back, putting himself in awful position to grab a defensive rebound—but phenomenal position to leak out as his team gets pummeled on the offensive boards. To the naked eye, it looks like he’s given up on the play.

For just a second, pretend Harden isn’t one of the five most important offensive players in basketball. Imagine he isn’t fifth in scoring with a 29.4% usage percentage. Now judge his defense. The technique is inconsistent. The effort is half-cooked. The numbers, though not a conclusive factor, indicate he isn’t the best. Neither does the tape.

But this is basketball, a sport that doesn’t separate offense and defense in a black and white way. We can’t ignore the energy he exudes on offense (not to mention the insane production) when discussing how poor his defense is because he’s SO efficient with the ball and it’s the primary reason Houston is a good basketball team. But when does the criticism begin? After seeing some of the effort and results, it’s time he begins to incrementally get better.

Twitter: @MichaelVPina

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Total comments: 39
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Here is a quote from today's article where Wade and LeBron talk about James Harden. It looks at last year's finals and may shed some light on how James is being handled in Houston's game plans.

    QUOTE:
    "It (the recent game against Miami) was the complete opposite of last June, where guarding James zapped Harden at the offensive end and resulted in him getting in foul trouble on defense as James racked up huge numbers on the way to the Finals MVP.

    During that series, the Heat put a bull's-eye on Harden in their game plan. They decided to focus in on him and attempt to take some things away, specifically his ability to get the ball in space so that he could drive and create contact to get fouls. So they attacked him defensively and were able to effectively limit him."

    --Miami showed Harden's achilles heel. He doesn't have enough energy to focus in on defense for 40 minutes AND carry his weight on offense. Also, putting him in foul trouble and, subsequently, not on the court is the best way to defend him. Thus, the Rockets appear to be choosing points scored over points defended (so far with generally positive results).

    Also from the article:
    "Twice in the final few minutes (of the recent game), Harden showed James up with the ball. With James respecting Harden’s drive he duped with step-backs that almost allowed the Rockets to pull off the comeback. At the other end, James struggled to get space with Harden on him. In the fourth quarter, Harden had 16 points and James had two, though James played only the last six minutes."

    --Again, showing that Harden can play solid D--just not for extended periods while also exerting himself on offense. Perhaps, and hopefully, Harden is finding a balance in his energy management and is learning to save a little extra for the final minutes of games for defense. I can live with that. The beard is maturing right before our eyes.

    BTW, in that game. Lebron James did not make a shot in that fourth quarter. He made 2 free throws. D-Wade was 1-4 in the fourth quarter. Not bad Houston. Not bad.

    Also, of note: Lin, Morris, and Anderson went a combined 6-24 from the field. 25%. That did not help.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Maybe I'm becoming obsessed with Houston's defense....but here is a link to the golden state game's shot chart. It shows where each shot was taken on the floor, by which player, and whether it was made or missed.

    LINK HERE

    It is fairly clear that the rockets' philosophy is to shoot from 3 or get a lay-up and not much else.

    On the other end, Golden State had plenty of looks at the rim, but limited shots from 3 and a ton of mid-range jumpers. Grantland just did a piece on the Bulls' defensive philosophy that also revolves around forcing opponents into as many mid-range jumpers as possible....obviously, they are better at it than us....but they have had more practice :)

    Just for comparison here are links to the rockets' previous 5 games shot charts:

    BOBCATS NUGGETS JAZZ NETS HORNETS

    For those who don't click links, I can tell you the Rockets consistently shoot from the same areas and almost go out of their way to not shoot from the very spots that our opponents seem to shoot from often. The only difference was Denver and that makes sense as they play a similar style to us. It seems the Rockets' first priority is eliminating the 3 pt. shot. Next up, protecting the rim better so that opponents have no choice but to shoot low % mid-range jumpers all-night. I can dig it.

    On offense, I think they are willing to live and die by the three. it's those poor free throw shooting nights that aren't ok.

    Just for good measure I went back a tad farther...into the losing streak. What I saw was pretty clear. During that stretch the # of mid-range jumpers we shot was significantly higher. Since cleaning that up we have lost only twice--to Denver.
  • sircharles says 1 YEAR ago whenever i start to feel impatient about the progress of the rockets i just think about how long it will be until the astros are relevant.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago That's hilarious!
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago oh no you didn't...........oh no you didn't bring up carlos lee. I could talk a month about lee. I was at an astro game and I swear I saw lee hit a triple(for any other player in the league it would have been an in the park homer)and by the time he got to third he was so out of breathe he was going to pass out and they ran oxgen on the field to save him :lol: my friend leaned over to me and said you know the only reason he hit it that far was the third base coach was waving a hotdog :lol: ..............sorry had to throw that in.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Agreed, defense almost has to be done with the eye test. I saw one list that had Jimmer Fredette as the #1 defender in the league. I know I only posted the one, but I saw three different sets of analytics and they all had Harden listed as above average. I think those stats still take into consideration "team" performance somehow. I think on that same list I posted it gave an offensive and defensive assessment in terms of points scored per 100 possessions and Harden was around a +8 or so on that. So, at least he is providing more than he takes off the table.

    As Houstonians, and presumed fellow Astros fans, I can imagine you can all relate to Carlos Lee. The man had to score at least 1 run a game to compensate for his terrible defense. Whatever Harden's defense is at least it isn't that bad. Besides, I still stand by my assertion that it is largely by design.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    thejohnnygold, on 05 February 2013 - 19:32 PM said:


    According to the few comprehensive defensive stats I can find Harden is an average to above average defender overall.

    Here is one such site that has tons of data and on this page Harden ranks #55 for Defensive Win Share in the league...whatever that's worth.


    Thanks for that stat, but it has Kevin Durant at 5 and LBJ at 15. Okay. That blows that argument out of the water. That stat has to be worthless if you look at the ranking. Although it does say Duncan is third in defense overall, so that's a plus. It also has Jeremy Lin as the 7th best defensive pg in the NBA. So......yeah. I don't hold much share with analytics except for the PER, because most of the time the best players are up there. LBJ leads the league, etc... But that list for defensive win shares was hilarious.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago According to the few comprehensive defensive stats I can find Harden is an average to above average defender overall.

    Here is one such site that has tons of data and on this page Harden ranks #55 for Defensive Win Share in the league...whatever that's worth.
  • sircharles says 1 YEAR ago

    ale11, on 04 February 2013 - 00:08 AM said:


    Denver is one of the 4 youngest teams, and it's way ahead of us (even though Andre Miller is older than all our roster combined, lol). Just a fact, nothing more. I agree with the rest of the post.


    average age of players

    rockets:23.7
    hornets:24
    cavs:24.7
    nuggets:24.7
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Alituro, I think we would all like to see more rebounding from the 4 spot. I do think part of why our 4's don't collect more rebounds is that they are both on the smaller side so we play to their strengths as "stretch" 4's. Often, they are at the 3-point line waiting for outlet passes instead of crashing the boards.

    For example, PPat and morris are not going to out rebound blake griffin, kevin love, tim duncan, aldridge, etc. That is a bad match-up for us. What we can do is pull those players out of their position of strength (in the paint) and force them to guard the 4 position on the wings which opens space for Harden, Lin, and Parsons to drive. That plays to our strengths.

    I do think Houston needs a rebounding PF that can mix it up inside....the kind of player that always looks like they are about to throw a punch, but never do. Think Charles Oakley. There aren't a lot out there to choose from that I am aware of. This is why I like reggie evans as a player. They guy is fairly unskilled, but he fits the description above pretty well and does a good job of it.
  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago I think it's all a matter of getting the most out of any given player. You play to their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. Should the title of the next post be: "Analysing Aisk's inability to spread the floor due to a poor mid range shot"? No, because Asik is not Mehmet Okur, he is Omer and he battles on the boards and controls the paint. It's what he does best and asking him to do something else would take away from what he does best. It would be nice if he could do that too, but he can't so why even try? Harden is an absolute firestorm on offense, but if he spent the previous possession fighting through screens and chasing the oppositions best ball handler all around the court, he would be somewhat drained on the subsequent possession and it would hinder his ability to score points at his current pace, which is what he does best. If his only defensive burden is keeping the opposition's weakest wing offender at arms length and kinda hang out in his passing lanes, then that's good, he's just winding up, getting ready to explode. This mindset simply fits our style of offense more than anything else. If we were a slower team and looked to score out of 1/2 court sets primarily, then we could afford to have Harden spend more energy on defense.

    To accuse his lack of defense on some self-stat-padding directive, sounds like bitter, jealous that Harden is the star of the team instead of Lin, rantings. I have seen nothing in his actions or heard anything in Harden's words that makes me think he wants nothing else but for his team to win. When he's on the bench he whoops and hollers and boosts his teammates like a leader should, he's not sitting there moping, wishing he could get a couple more points instead.

    I find it disturbing that Patterson only gets 2 PFs per game, he needs at least 3 more per game and all 3 from loose ball fouls. Far more troubling than Harden's expected lack of defense is our PFs inability to grab rebounds.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    feelingsupersonic, on 04 February 2013 - 00:59 AM said:


    Thanks for the correction I thought the Rockets, Wizards, Thunder and Cavaliers were the four youngest with the Nuggets being the fifth youngest but maybe my sources were old or off. Are the Rockets among the top two or three in age by player minutes?


    I suspect the Cavaliers got older as a result of the trade they did with Memphis, might have been enough to take them out of the top 4.

    ST
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Thanks for the correction I thought the Rockets, Wizards, Thunder and Cavaliers were the four youngest with the Nuggets being the fifth youngest but maybe my sources were old or off. Are the Rockets among the top two or three in age by player minutes?
  • ale11 says 1 YEAR ago

    feelingsupersonic, on 03 February 2013 - 16:51 PM said:


    These Rockets are among the top 4 youngest teams and of those teams the Rockets are the only one seriously in the playoff race.



    Denver is one of the 4 youngest teams, and it's way ahead of us (even though Andre Miller is older than all our roster combined, lol). Just a fact, nothing more. I agree with the rest of the post.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago OK, a lot of opinions have been put forth as to what is up with Harden's defense. Honestly, I think it is a little bit of everything combined, but let's look at some video....

    Here is a video of Harden guarding Kobe in the 4th quarter of what I presume is a playoff game last year. Pretty solid work...reminds me of how well Battier used to guard Kobe. (2 minutes)

    https://www.youtube....h?v=63TDVWnZ5K8

    So, I would say that proves he can play defense.

    This clip shows what I think most of us have grown weary of...(:16)

    https://www.youtube....h?v=i2Fq2SgbJ4M

    Any of us could have done that....grandma could have done that....really, really bad. How do you forget to guard Lebron? Still, in watching it a few times, he did a good job of forcing Wade to the corner for what would be a bad shot. If he had not presumed Wade would shoot and had played the passing lane he would have easily intercepted that pass to Lebron as he was still in position for that. He looked so lackadaisical about the whole thing....

    One other thought....in the video I can find and what I have seen from this year Harden seems to get the other teams' "weakest" offfensive assignment. That player often drifts back quite a few feet behind the 3 pt. line presumably trying to draw Harden out of the way. This leaves Harden in no man's land. Not an excuse...just an observation.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago I never meant 'already' but I can see where you would misunderstand what I wrote last night. In my mind, barring serious injury, Harden can be the greatest Rocket since Dream and I believe he will be. You can take my late night rantings, often influenced by whatever I am imbibing, and pick apart the tense I wrote it in but if you wanted the real explanation of what I wrote then look no further than my post at 10:51 am at the top of page two. I could care less about who is right or wrong I just like to see some good Rockets talk.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago Indeed, I considered the T-Mac argument, but , as FS alluded to, his greatness was with Orlando. We got damaged goods. Personally, I never liked Yao as much as most seem to. I always felt he was a defensive liability despite his 7' 6". He also was never able to consistently assert himself physically over smaller or weaker players. Other than that, yeah, he was a great player and person in general.

    Harden posted the triple double last night. His scoring dipped a little, but with the extra assists and rebounds I'll sacrifice 5 extra points. Hard to take much away from it since both Parsons and Patterson had above average nights. One thing I noted from the recap article on ESPN was Harden stating, "I was trying to make shots, trying to rebound, trying to find other ways to impact the game other than scoring." Perhaps a sign of things to come considering Kobe's shift in LA and the effect it has had on their team. Maybe Harden took notice and saw a parallel?
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago If that was your opinion, then I would agree with you. But what you said is that he is ALREADY the greatest rockets player since The dream. I agree with you, wholeheartedly, that he has a shot, if he continues to improve. At this point of his career, with half a season under his belt, I'm not ready to put him ahead of T-Mac, Yao, even Scola.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago That's fine, it's just my opinion and kind of my hope to be honest. You could surely argue for Tracy McGrady and Yao. I would actually concede that McGrady might be one of the greatest wings ever to play the game but he surely wasn't a 'great Rocket'. Yao in my eyes transcends the Rockets and is one of the greatest figures in basketball history in my opinion. But Harden, barring injury, is set up to be the 'greatest Rocket' since Dream in my opinion. Harden will be a or the leader of the Rockets for multiple deep runs into the playoffs over the next 5 or 6 years minimum. These Rockets are among the top 4 youngest teams and of those teams the Rockets are the only one seriously in the playoff race. The Rockets look playoff bound and Morey has the lowest payroll in the league (and as of right now it will be in the 6 lowest payrolls next year http://hoopshype.com/salaries.htm). This team is positioned with exciting young players looking to prove themselves, financial flexibility, a very good defensive big on the rise and a star player in James Harden. I am betting by the time the Harden era is over there will be more banners up in the arena and that is why Harden will go down as the greatest Rocket since Olajuwon in my book.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago While harden is great, he's not better than a healthy McGrady or Yao. He's got the potential to be better, but I don't think he's there yet. So no I don't think he's the greatest since Hakeem
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago I second, or third, whatever Rockets best fan as well. I see a lot of players we will want to keep and there is still so much potential waiting in the wings. Just imagine if things go well and everyone continues to develop (as they should) we will have one of the deepest, baddest teams around.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago I agree rockets best fan. It is pretty rediculous that fans, on a forum, a message board for Rockets fans, criticize James Harden as if he were the Rockets problem. In reality he is the greatest player this franchise has had since Olajuwon.


    (Yes I wrote that proclamation after drinking too much wine and yes I got ahead of myself there but not by much.)
  • rockets best fan says 1 YEAR ago

    Cooper, on 03 February 2013 - 03:32 AM said:


    Saying harden doesn't care about winning is kinda ridiculous, yeah he's not a great defender but who is that is also a great scorer? Not a long list for sure. In a playoff series he would put more effort in on defense which is really all I expect from him. Wade doesn't play great d during the regular season. Ellis can't play d at all, Gordon is a mediocre defender, Kobe can play good d for stretches but most elite scoring guards aren't that good at defense because they never really had to play it or don't put much effort in until they really have to.
    agreed. harden provides scoring for this team. how many wins do we have without harden scoring above 20 pts? I think harden is capable of good defense, but conserves energy during games. the rockets have 21 sets of back to backs this year. to put up above 20-25 every nite requires him to play the game, but also look at the big picture. thier are 82 games to play. I also hear whinning about his turnovers. while I want to see them decline over time I understand harden is the player who must force the action when other teams are playing inspired denfense on us. this is his first time handling this responsability. it like everything else is a learning process. our other players are learning and guess what harden is too! he like all other players on this team I expect to get better over time. he is learning how to be a star and balance his energy verses need to make a play. I can't even believe we are having a dicussion about hardens few faults based on how he has changed the outlook for the future of this team......crazy isn't it? harden is the reason I see hope. without him we are cellar dwellers. he has lived up to what I expected, but I also expect him to improve. after all he's only 23. that's why what we have is so great (IMO) we are both young and good. sure we will add to what we have, but looking at these rockets makes me think we have laid some of the concrete on that championship foundation
  • Cooper says 1 YEAR ago Saying harden doesn't care about winning is kinda ridiculous, yeah he's not a great defender but who is that is also a great scorer? Not a long list for sure. In a playoff series he would put more effort in on defense which is really all I expect from him. Wade doesn't play great d during the regular season. Ellis can't play d at all, Gordon is a mediocre defender, Kobe can play good d for stretches but most elite scoring guards aren't that good at defense because they never really had to play it or don't put much effort in until they really have to.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    idiotfan, on 02 February 2013 - 23:10 PM said:


    A couple of the videos above highlight a key point for Harden and his thought process: he will not challenge shots bc he doesn't want to draw a foul. Getting into foul trouble means less time on the court. Once his man beats gets past him, Harden lets him go, because of fear of fouling.

    as I mentioned earlier, there is tremendous pressure on him to score to keep his per-game average up. A 19-point game means he would have to pour in 33 the next game to keep his average of 26. Lots of pressure during the game to "get to 25" including forcing the action to get a foul call and get to the line, and in so doing also risk turnovers, or continuing to shoot on off-nites. So this new-found mini-obsession on maintaining the high scoring average leads (rationalized by "my scoring helps the team win") to several negatives. So the player starts making decisions about his role as a top league scoring machine, and one of them is to save energy during the game on the defensive end, not making defensive fouls, and also not giving 100% effort off the court in learning to become a better team defender.


    Exactly. But some people can't take off their blinders and see Harden for what he is. An offensive player who doesn't play defense. He seems "obsessed" with his points. I've noticed several times where he tries to get points rather than make the best play. I guess I'm just used to watching stars like Duncan/LBJ/Nash/etc... who will make the best play regardless.
  • idiotfan says 1 YEAR ago A couple of the videos above highlight a key point for Harden and his thought process: he will not challenge shots bc he doesn't want to draw a foul. Getting into foul trouble means less time on the court. Once his man beats gets past him, Harden lets him go, because of fear of fouling.

    as I mentioned earlier, there is tremendous pressure on him to score to keep his per-game average up. A 19-point game means he would have to pour in 33 the next game to keep his average of 26. Lots of pressure during the game to "get to 25" including forcing the action to get a foul call and get to the line, and in so doing also risk turnovers, or continuing to shoot on off-nites. So this new-found mini-obsession on maintaining the high scoring average leads (rationalized by "my scoring helps the team win") to several negatives. So the player starts making decisions about his role as a top league scoring machine, and one of them is to save energy during the game on the defensive end, not making defensive fouls, and also not giving 100% effort off the court in learning to become a better team defender.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    thejohnnygold, on 02 February 2013 - 19:44 PM said:


    As a counterpoint to this, I will point out that only 20 players in the entire league average 3+ fouls per game. Is it just me, or did teams use all their fouls in the past? Seems like, in the fourth quarter they would always show the "foul trouble" graphic and each team would have 3-5 players on it with 4 or 5 fouls each. The times they are a changin'.


    One of the reasons why scoring is down in the league this year is that players are getting to the line less often than they have done in the past. IIRC the percentage of possessions ending in free throws is the lowest it has been for several years. To an extent you can explain that by the refs cracking down slightly on continuation and rip-through calls and the like, but they're also letting the players play a bit more. Naturally, you end up with fewer players getting in foul trouble as a result.

    ST
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago STAT is Stoudemire. "Standing Tall and Talented" lol.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    feelingsupersonic, on 02 February 2013 - 19:19 PM said:


    Lovefest? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.


    Haha...didn't even think about that. True enough.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 02 February 2013 - 19:17 PM said:


    Was it intentional for Melo to never play defense? Or STAT? Or Nash? Sometimes, players just suck at defense and don't prioritize learning it. I watched him in OKC, he was not good at defense. You need to stop your lovefest with Harden and just accept that either A) he can't play defense, or B) He just doesn't care about defense. Both of those options are much more likely than the coach telling him it's okay to play zero defense.


    Lovefest??? :wub: Hardly. I agree that your reasons are way more plausible. It is just something I was thinking about. As I've stated before in other threads, I like to let my mind travel down as many paths as possible....it is always ok to come back from a dead end or wrong turn, but if we never investigate how will we know anything for sure?

    Oh, and who is "STAT"?
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago The following is a list of Houston's players as they rank amongst the league in personal fouls per game. It is interesting. First, look at PPat! less than 2 fouls a game and solid defense--as you said, TTDN, it is possible. What I find more interesting is that none of our players averaging significant minutes is over 3 fouls per game. That is awesome, and points towards a particular team strategy--don't give the opponent free throws. It makes sense that if we value them so highly on offense we would equally value not giving them out on defense.

    #47 - Omer Asik - 2.6
    #68 - Jeremy Lin - 2.5
    #94 - James Harden - 2.4
    #114 - Marcus Morris - 2.2
    #122 - Greg Smith - 2.2
    #148 - Toney Douglas - 2.1
    #158 - Chandler Parsons - 2.0
    #195 - Patrick Patterson - 1.9
    #247 - Carlos Delfino - 1.7

    As a counterpoint to this, I will point out that only 20 players in the entire league average 3+ fouls per game. Is it just me, or did teams use all their fouls in the past? Seems like, in the fourth quarter they would always show the "foul trouble" graphic and each team would have 3-5 players on it with 4 or 5 fouls each. The times they are a changin'.
  • feelingsupersonic says 1 YEAR ago Lovefest? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago

    thejohnnygold, on 02 February 2013 - 19:14 PM said:


    Not exactly what I am suggesting--and it is a bit of an absurd suggestion--still, I think it is worth consideration. Not fouling is easier said than done. The offensive player can, and does, initiate contact resulting in a defensive foul. It is something I dislike about the NBA. If you're team strategy was to protect a player it might be necessary to play "worse defense than steve nash".

    As I already said, Surely Harden is athletic enough to play defense. I also presume he is competitive enough to care and not want to get torched by his opponents. So what gives? His lack of effort is obvious--no coach would allow that from any player....which begs the question of, "is it intentional"?


    Was it intentional for Melo to never play defense? Or STAT? Or Nash? Sometimes, players just suck at defense and don't prioritize learning it. I watched him in OKC, he was not good at defense. You need to stop your lovefest with Harden and just accept that either A) he can't play defense, or B) He just doesn't care about defense. Both of those options are much more likely than the coach telling him it's okay to play zero defense.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    timetodienow1234567, on 02 February 2013 - 17:00 PM said:


    So the coaching staff is telling Harden to play worse defense than Steve Nash? Are you serious? I'm sure he was instructed not to foul, but you can play quality defense without fouling. It's harder for big men, but not impossible. I do think Harden is conserving himself some because he plays so many minutes, but whose fault is that? Mchale needs to give him some more rest. Running a 5 of Lin/Parsons/Delfino/PPat/Asik while Harden gets rest is fine. It won't be much worse on defense since Harden doesn't play any. And on offense, it's not as good without Harden, but Lin can drive and then kick out to the open shooter or find Asik for a dunk. We need Harden to play both ends of the floor if we expect to win a championship. We don't need LBJ-calibre defense but we need better than what he's giving.


    Not exactly what I am suggesting--and it is a bit of an absurd suggestion--still, I think it is worth consideration. Not fouling is easier said than done. The offensive player can, and does, initiate contact resulting in a defensive foul. It is something I dislike about the NBA. If you're team strategy was to protect a player it might be necessary to play "worse defense than steve nash".

    As I already said, Surely Harden is athletic enough to play defense. I also presume he is competitive enough to care and not want to get torched by his opponents. So what gives? His lack of effort is obvious--no coach would allow that from any player....which begs the question of, "is it intentional"?
  • idiotfan says 1 YEAR ago Harden right now is your proverbial double-edge sword.

    One of the issues with Harden is that he's #5 in the league in scoring. When you get up there, it's natural for any competitor to start trying to do everything he can to compete in that arena... the high scorer arena. I would do it, you would do it, Harden does it. It's very difficult to score 26 pts/game. If you have an off-night of 15, you have to come back and score 37 the next day to maintain the average. So Harden's focus isn't entirely on competing to win, because there is the side distraction of competing to score to keep his status among the top 10. This is all new to him, it's exciting being in the top 10. You ask Kobe or Lebron and they'd still care about ranking, but LESS.

    Now, he's not exactly selfish about his scoring. The team depends on his scoring. But do they need him to score 26 per? I think it would be better for him to average 22, and play better defense. Sometimes you see him just not using his energy on the defensive end just so he can conserve it on the offensive side...... again, not only bc the team needs him to score, but this top-10 scoring ranking keeps calling out to him. Case in point, Wednesday's game, Rockets down 101-88 to denver. He drives, gets his layup blocked, and immediately stops as the defender rebounds and pushes the ball up. He was was too tired to start hustling back to the other end to play defense... he's got to save that energy for defense. He stands there just looking for a second and then slowly jogs back down the court.

    Harden does indeed have the ability to play defense. He's not as smart on the defensive end but very capable of being very good. He is an excellent defender manning the passing lanes and in the open court when there is a scramble or fast break... 1.8 steals is not bad. Where he fails is:
    1. effort, or lack of focus on this aspect of the game (defense)
    2. pick-n-roll or team defense where there are switches
    3. the opponent's fast breaks... but near the basket. Harden refuses to contest an opponent's layup or finish BC........ he doesn't want to pick up a foul and get himself into foul trouble which ends up affecting his offense.
  • timetodienow1234567 says 1 YEAR ago So the coaching staff is telling Harden to play worse defense than Steve Nash? Are you serious? I'm sure he was instructed not to foul, but you can play quality defense without fouling. It's harder for big men, but not impossible. I do think Harden is conserving himself some because he plays so many minutes, but whose fault is that? Mchale needs to give him some more rest. Running a 5 of Lin/Parsons/Delfino/PPat/Asik while Harden gets rest is fine. It won't be much worse on defense since Harden doesn't play any. And on offense, it's not as good without Harden, but Lin can drive and then kick out to the open shooter or find Asik for a dunk. We need Harden to play both ends of the floor if we expect to win a championship. We don't need LBJ-calibre defense but we need better than what he's giving.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago I agree that Harden, and every Rocket, needs to put forth the effort on defense. I can't help but think this is something Morey has analyzed and is willing to live with. I was glancing at Harden's stats and comparing previous years to this one. His rebounds have held fairly steady from year to year. As his minutes increased his defensive rebounds increased by 1 from roughly 2.5 to 3.5. His offensive rebounds increased from .5 to .9. Not much change. Further, his number pf personal fouls has held constant at roughly 2.5.

    Now, I believe Harden could grab at least 4-5 more rebounds a game given his athleticism--if he wanted to. But looking at those two numbers I think I see a different ideal at work. Perhaps Morey and McHale have decided to protect Harden from foul trouble. By limiting his opportunity to pick up cheap fouls on rebounds and driving guards Harden is able to stay on the court without worry. Compound that with the offensive opportunities he creates by "slipping" down court for easy baskets--we all know that as "cherry-picking"--and perhaps Morey's numbers indicate a mathematical advantage over the course of the game by employing this strategy.

    It does seem a little far-fetched. For us, I think it is difficult to watch lackluster effort by anyone. Harden is a competitor. Surely he would prefer to hold his own out there--unless he is being specifically instructed not to do so.

    I have been watching NBA basketball for well over 20 years now. Over that time patterns develop and I can tell you that one pattern I have seen is the "referee effect". In a game, the team whose star player picks up 2 early fouls loses the majority of the time. I remember during the Rockets 2 championship years this was almost a rule. Whether it was Hakeem vs. Robinson or Hakeem vs. Ewing, etc.....the big that got early foul trouble was on the losing team. These days the rule may not be as effective as many teams have multiple stars, but on a one-star team it is deadly. Houston is one of those teams.

    Again, I would love it if Harden could be a top-5 defender at his position....and maybe he would be if instructed to do so. Just some food for thought...
  • phaketrash says 1 YEAR ago Too bad we don't get to see Harden put forth the effort to do some of this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_0fyUYB3cA

    He'd probably be happier lol.
  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago Great clips on Harden's defense. The rockets will need him to elevate to the next level where he locks in on the other team's star player to win a championship. E.g Lebron, Jordan, Kobe, Garnett and many more champions. Usually you need the star to set the tone and take pride in defense. He doesn't have to be the best but lead the team with inspiration. Thats the difference between the winners and offensive star players like, Melo, V. Carter, T-Mac, Iverson. I can see how Durant is developing in that aspect because he knows he needs to commit to defense in order to win. Hopefully Harden will work on it and not realize it too late that defense wins in playoffs, and not be another A.I or Melo.

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