Watch a 10-minute video of James Harden playing great defense
Last year, multiple videos pointed out Harden’s embarrassing lack of effort. This year, he’s changed.
The Houston Rockets have the second best defensive rating in the NBA, and James Harden is a big reason why. Yes, you read that correctly. Harden, the same player whose disinterest and ineptitude on defense led to the creation of this 11-minute defensive lowlight reel, this play and many others just like that, is now playing major minutes for one of the league’s best defensive teams.
Even more surprising is how much of a role Harden himself has played in Houston’s early-season defensive success. If you want proof, check out the video above, which might be the first video to ever celebrate James Harden as a stopper.
Through 20 games the 16-4 Rockers are holding opponents to 96.5 points per 100 possessions. Only the Warriors (95.1) have been better. Opponents are shooting just 42.6 percent against Houston, the third best mark in the league. All of these numbers are major upgrades from last year, when the Rockets allowed opponents to shoot 44 percent and score 103.1 points per 100 possessions, good for just 12th in the NBA. Our Kevin Zimmerman took a look at how the Rockets have been able to improve their defense.
Harden was not the sole reason for Houston’s leaky D at times last year, but he certainly didn’t help. This year, on the other hand, Harden has an individual defensive rating of 96.7, one of the better marks in the league. He’s putting in more effort and making smarter plays. No longer are we seeing The Bearded One relax like this:
That the Rockets have been able to turn things around so dramatically on the defensive end is incredible considering the absences of Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley to injury. Harden deserves all the credit for this turnaround, but his devotion to actually trying on defense has played a major role.
(Hat tip to Trey Kerby of “The Starters” for spotting the video).