Ahead of Thursday's meeting with James Harden and the Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was nothing but complimentary of the league's leading scorer who has somewhat polarized many around basketball with his high-octane offense.
“We've already pretty much played every defense you can think of or dream of, so it won't be the first time we do anything, other than just James is kind of an alien out there, 1-on-1,” VanVleet said per Josh Lewenberg of TSN when asked about their defensive plan for the former MVP.
Harden enters the contest averaging 39.5 points per game, a number that would exceed his scoring average of 36.1 points from last year. He has gone for at least 32 points in 16 of his 20 contests this season.
But criticism has been lobbied Harden's way for his unparalleled ability at drawing fouls. He is averaging 13.1 makes per game from the free-throw stripe, vastly more than any player in the league even attempts on a nightly basis. However, the way that VanVleet sees it, that's part of what makes Harden and his astronomical run so impressive:
“You try to learn and take stuff from him, and every player dreams of drawing fouls the way he does … he's pretty special,” VanVleet said.
VanVleet has had a breakout season in his own right, entering play Thursday averaging 18.7 points, 7.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game — all of which would set new career highs — while playing 37.8 minutes per contest, the most of any player in the league. He may not have the secret sauce to stopping Harden, but he'll do his best to get Toronto a victory regardless.