James Harden is smack dab in one of the greatest scoring binges in NBA history. He’s been compared to hall-of-famers like Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and (soon to be inducted) Kobe Bryant for his prolific volume scoring.
As the reigning MVP continues to destroy defenses around the league with his sky high point totals, everyone’s wondering what the answer is to stop him. ESPN polled their experts on this very subject, and the renowned basketball analytics guru Kirk Goldsberry crunched the numbers and had a jaw dropping response on Harden’s kryptonite.
Throw Andre Iguodala at him. Over the past two-plus seasons, 27 NBA players have matched up on Harden at least 100 times, per Second Spectrum tracking. Of that group, nobody has done better than Iggy, who has held Harden to just 19 points per 100 possessions in those matchups. Iguodala is long enough to contest the step-back, fast enough to keep up on the drives and smart enough to avoid stupid fouls. The good news for Houston is that not every team has someone like Iggy. The bad news is that Golden State does.
Oh my. You’re telling me Iguodala doesn’t just make it tough on Harden; he throws him into solitary confinement on Alcatraz Island?!
This may give pause to the raspy cry that arose last Western Conference Finals: “don’t forget the Houston Rockets coulda/woulda/shoulda beat the Golden State Warriors! They were up 3-2 in the conference finals until Chris Paul got injured!”.
They never mentioned how Iguodala (a Finals MVP!) was hurt on a desperate Harden drive and missed the rest of the series when the Warriors were up 2-1, tilting events in quite an underrated fashion.
Do you remember the graphic that ESPN ran during that series about Iguodala’s defensive impact on Paul and Harden?
I wrote extensively about Iguodala’s subtly powerful impact last summer but I didn’t know the true extent of his devastating effect on Houston’s offense, particularly where Harden was concerned.
Goldsberry’s mic drop supports Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s statement that the Dubs would have won in 5 games against the Rockets if Iguodala was healthy.