James Harden’s got game, at least at one end of the court.
Judging by a half-hearted, ham-handed non-attempt at defence during the late stages of a tight 113-107 win over Toronto yesterday, we also know his enormous salary is for his shooting ability only.
With his team up 104-102 late in the fourth quarter, in a game where he’d finish with a game high 40 points, Harden’s — ahem — defensive deficiencies were exposed. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan blew by one Houston defender on his way to the basket and as he got to Harden, the all-star shooting guard made a motion we can only describe as “can I scratch your knee, DeMar?” before DeRozan scored on a lay-up.
Statistically, Harden is a dynamo on offence, scoring 29 points per game this season, just behind that Curry kid for Golden State. Defensively, his Defensive Real Plus Minus (DRPM) is 3o8th (out of 446) in the league at -1.01 (just ahead of Curry, who is -1.02. To put it in persepective, the league’s best defender, DRPM-wise, is Tim Duncan at 5.62.
So, we’re going to throw some shade at 10 very good to excellent players who are making big money not to defend very well.
A look way down the defensive ledgers is a very familiar face on a very familiar, and good, team. The Clippers’ J.J. Redick, a prolific three-point shooter who is hitting at .475 efficiency this season and is averaging 16.5 points per game (career high) in 57 games, is at no. 400 in DRPM at -2.24. Luckily for him, his Offensive Real Plus Minus (ORPM ) is +2.41, giving him an overall RPM of 0.17, which barely justifies his $7 million (+) salary . As for his defensive liabilities, his pre-draft scouting report from 2006 still carries water today. “Redick is just an average defender at the NCAA level already, and this is an area where things can only get worse in the NBA,” the report from Draft Express noted, adding, “His lack of height likely means that many 6-7 shooting guards will be able to just elevate over the top of him to get their shot off.”