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Jeff Bzdelik comments on Rockets’ James Harden’s critics

James Harden, Jeff Bzdelik

Despite posting one of the most historic seasons in NBA history, James Harden has drawn the ire of NBA fans for his style of play after winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award last season.

Harden has frequently been called out for accentuating foul calls and “flopping,” and is averaging the over 11 free-throw attempts per game, which is the highest average in the league.

His scoring ability is unquestioned, although some critics have poured over the legality (or lack thereof) of his step-back move and whether he should be called for a travel more often than not.

Still, Harden will become just the sixth player in league history to average at least 35 points per game, and likely the first to average more than 36 points since Michael Jordan in the 1986-87 season, when Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game.

Rockets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik recently commented on Harden’s critics, saying that they ignore the intangibles of his leadership and fail to recognize some of the defensive improvements Harden has made this season:

Harden’s defensive rating is actually the worst of his career, according to NBA.com advanced statistics, but he is also posting one of the highest defensive rebounding percentages of his career, and Harden is also averaging a career-high two steals per game.

Despite averaging 36.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists, Harden is not a shoe-in to win the MVP award, despite carrying the Rockets through injuries in the first half of the season and helping them to the best record in the West since the All-Star break.

Harden will likely split votes with Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is having a historic season of his own while leading the Bucks to the best record in the league.