How defenses are dealing with James Harden

James Harden is an efficienct game plan in human form. Taking into account his ability to attack the rim, shoot with accuracy from anywhere on the court, live at the free-throw line (and make free-throws), and actuate an opposing defense with potent penetration and smart decisions, he excels at everything you want from a guard in today’s NBA.

The same people who’re unsatisfied with his offensive game would ask for more money after winning the lottery. It isn’t perfect because, well, he’s still technically a human being. But it’s damn near close.

 

Harden’s offense is genius in that the results are predictable, yet the defense is still helpless as he’s about to do what everyone in the gym already expects. Despite shooting an embarrassingly low 27.9% on three-pointers, defenses still have to treat his range honestly, knowing an early season shooting slump could melt away in a matter of seconds.

According to Hoopdata.com, only 4.1 of his 18.9 shots per game come from 3-23 feet, an absolutely astounding figure. All of his action either comes at the rim or behind the three-point line. Part of this is by design: Harden’s a smart player who—I’m guessing—understands the value of a three-pointer over an 18 foot jump shot, just as drawing contact at the hoop is more helpful than settling on a floater in the paint.

This isn’t to say Harden can’t shoot mid-range shots, it’s just that they aren’t a great component of his game. He’s smart enough to recognize that the value of this shot isn’t nearly as great as the other two options when extrapolated over the course of an entire season.

How do you guard James Harden? A fair answer might be “you don’t.” But let’s take a look at how opposing coaching staffs have tried, however futile they may currently be. [read more…]






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Utah Jazz 102, Houston Rockets 91

I hate Utah.

I’m 22 years old, and Stockton’s 3 is my very first clear memory in my life.  While I generally had some interest in basketball throughout my life, I became truly devoted with the Yao-McGrady Rockets – where they repeatedly ran into the one team which frustrated that team that was supposed to lead us to the promised land twice.  In my eyes, Utah is evil.  Whether it is Kirilenko flops or Malone elbows or Stockton nut shots, even this completely different Jazz team is always the enemy – just as the Cowboys will be the enemy even when Jerry Jones is six feet under.

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Feel for Andrew Bynum, and remember.

Yesterday, like most days in my life, I argued with one of my co-workers, a former D-1 basketball player, about NBA basketball. I had been informing a couple of hoops-ignorant Chinese-born students I was tutoring about the greatness of Yao Ming, comparing him to the various players they had heard of (“Is he better than Michael Jordan?” “Well no, but…”), when the comparison came to the current day Rockets and their freak talent, James Edward Harden Jr. Relishing the opportunity to pour on the superlatives, I had nary said a word more than “He was definitely better than Harden” before my co-worker loudly disagreed, mentioning that health is a talent. I might add that this man is a former point guard, a Chicagoan, and a casual NBA fan, so his lack of appreciation for a mid-Aughts, enormous center from a team that only kind of mattered at the time is unsurprising, but it is representative. There is an entire generation of fans that thinks Yao Ming was not all that great of a basketball player, and this crushes me. This always will crush me. [read more…]






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I feel slightly dirty broaching this topic.  Maybe because I know I’m disguising an assertion as a question.  So I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to go with this – whether this’ll just be slightly touched on here or drawn out into a comprehensive series like last year’s Dragic vs. Lowry.  But what I’m wondering about is the question posed in the title: did the Rockets choose the wrong guy?

Lin is averaging, so far, 10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 2.2 steals, per game.  Those numbers are coming at 34.3 minutes per game.  He’s shooting 34% from the field and 26% from deep.

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LA Lakers 119, Houston Rockets 108

The good news is that Terrence Jones saw nearly 20 minutes of playing time and left us with a brutal highlight to enjoy. The bad news is that there was a game tonight. With the nascent form of a D’antoni offense set up in Los Angeles, the Lakers had their way with the Rockets, punishing them from the arc, from the paint and from the free throw line. They shot 45% from deep. They hit 54% overall. They only hit 18 free throws out of 28, but they got 28 free throws.

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