Houston Rockets superstar James Harden has brought himself back to the MVP race once again after establishing an incredible performance in the 2018-19 NBA season. In 58 games, the 29-year-old shooting guard is averaging 36.6 points, 7.7 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.2 steals on 44.0 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. In the Rockets’ 121-118 victory over the Miami Heat, Harden posted his sixth 50-point performance of the season after finishing the game with 58 points.
James Harden doesn’t seem to be worried at all who they are up against or who is guarding him. He makes it look like scoring in the NBA is just child’s play. According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports, several star defenders in the league agreed that limiting Harden’s production on the offensive end of the floor is the “biggest defensive challenge” in the NBA today.
Golden State Warriors superstar Klay Thompson said that “it’s not very fun” guarding James Harden, while Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal added that anyone defending “The Beard” is always “in a lose, lose, lose situation.” Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George, who is one of the top candidates to win the Defensive Player of the Year, has an idea why Harden is almost unguardable.
“The difficulty is guarding him without fouling. He gets a lot of foul calls,” George said. “It’s hard to bring physicality and be a defender in this league when he’s so good at drawing those fouls. Try to be physical and guard him without fouling. Which is hard. The same reason it’s tough to guard him is the same reason how you have to guard him.”
James Harden rolls, leads Rockets to comeback win over Heat https://t.co/xD2BIloH0i
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 1, 2019
Aside from his speed and on-court vision, James Harden’s body is built to absorb and initiate contacts, making it easier for him to draw a foul against his defenders. This season, Harden is currently averaging 11.6 free throws per game and hitting 87.6 percent. Los Angeles Lakers power forward Kyle Kuzma shared the same sentiment as Paul George, saying that players need to use a different defensive approach when guarding the reigning MVP.
“You have to guard him differently because of how he’s officiated and how talented a player he is,” Kuzma said. “It’s really unorthodox defending him.”
James Harden’s outstanding performance on the offensive end of the floor is undeniably the major reason why the Rockets have managed to bounce back despite being hit by multiple injuries and struggling earlier in the 2018-19 NBA season. However, some of the Rockets’ players also need to step up if they are serious about fully dominating the Western Conference and win the 2019 NBA championship title.