During Monday night’s game against the Clippers, I counted 18 times that James Harden was primarily to blame for a bad defensive possession. That’s one defensive flub for every 1.8 minutes he played. It’s hard to describe just how remarkably atrocious that is, but let me try this way: By my tally, James Harden was committing defensive flubs at a rate over 200% worse than the next worst offender (Jeremy Lin, who was guarding the league’s most vaporous ball handler).
What’s funny is that before Monday’s game I was considering devoting a post to complimenting Harden’s defense, and for good reason. I have kept a tally of credits and blames for every Rocket during four of the five games this season, and until Monday night, Harden looked to be doing some nice things defensively. He was earning more defensive credits per minute than any other Rocket save Asik and Casspi. These credits and blames are very subjective, of course, but Harden seemed to be doing a good job of challenging shots, quickly closing out, and/or forcing ball handlers to go into the strength of the defense or to go to their non-preferred hand.
So then what happened Monday night?
I don’t have a clue.
It’s one of the most bizarrely bad performances I have witnessed. I might have blamed it on not wanting to chase Redick around screens, but his defense was equally as non-existent against Dudley.
For what it’s worth, last night against Portland, I tallied “only” nine Harden defensive flubs, which gave him a much more tolerable flub rate of one per 4.5 minutes. I also credited him with five excellent defensive plays. So maybe the Clippers game was just an anomaly. Let’s hope.