James Harden takes a lot of flak for his defense, and for the most part deservedly so. The Houston Rockets superstar is one of the quickest players in basketball, with footwork unlike any the game has ever seen.
But those impressive traits are hardly demonstrated on defense, where Harden often serves as a turnstile for opposing ball handlers on the perimeter. He has a nagging penchant for especially lazy transition defense, too, something that's made him the butt of joke after joke since rising to prominence a few years ago.
Still, Harden probably isn't as bad a defender as most casual NBA fans assume. Why? The burly 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is one of the best post defenders among guards in the entire NBA, a reality on full display Friday night on this possession checking Denver Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee.
James Harden is such an underrated post defender. Harden is holding his ground against a 6’11 center like it is nothing. pic.twitter.com/0EKnPJFO9g
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 2, 2019
It's always instructive watching whether or not opposing teams attempt to attack Harden on the block with players normally unaccustomed to creating their own offense. Those who do quickly learn that Harden isn't the pushover narrative suggests, and instead plays a key role, like Chris Paul, in Houston's ability to switch one through five with little negative recourse stemming from size discrepancies.
Unfortunately for Harden, he and his team didn't force quite enough stops against the Nuggets, who defeated them 136-122.