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Nuggets’ Michael Malone thinks Rockets’ James Harden is ‘the toughest guy to prepare for’ in NBA

Nuggets, Michael Malone, James Harden, Rockets

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone knows that he has his hands full as the Nuggets prepare to square off against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night in Denver. After all, in his own words, Rockets guard James Harden is “the toughest guy to prepare for:”

Malone is hardly the only coach to loft praise on Harden in recent weeks. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had a simple message for Ky Bowman when he drew Harden on defense:

More recently, Harden’s teammate Russell Westbrook praised his friend and encouraged NBA fans not to “normalize his greatness” as an offensive player (via Tim MacMahon of ESPN):

“I think that a lot of people like to normalize greatness when you see it over and over again, but it’s not normal because there’s nobody else that can do it,” said Rockets guard Russell Westbrook, who recorded his third triple-double of the season with 28 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. “If it was normal, everybody would do it.

“He’s put himself in position to be one of the best offensive scorers of all time because of the way that he’s able to score the ball at a high level in a variety of ways.”

Harden continues to defy expectations as a scorer in the modern NBA. He is averaging 39.2 points per game through the first 14 games of the season, including eight straight games in which he has scored at least 36 points (Harden topped 40 points in five of those games).

The most astonishing number could be Harden’s free-throw averages. “The Beard” is attempting 14.5 free throws per game while converting on over 88 percent (12.8) of those attempts.

Can the Nuggets contain Harden? They enter Wednesday night’s matchup with the seventh-best defensive rating in the NBA, according to Basketball-Reference.

On the other hand, maybe Malone is acknowledging that nobody can stop Harden.