Kevin Durant has made some very interesting comments about his former teammate James Harden.
In wake of the rumors floating around that Durant supposedly told Russell Westbrook that he was going to return to Oklahoma City only to eventually join the Warriors, Durant is showcasing his loyalty to another former Thunder teammate.
“Nobody really appreciates what he does except for the players in our league,” Durant said to the Houston Chronicle, referring to Harden. “Anybody that can put up 29 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and not make the All-NBA Team, that’s like a sin to even think about not putting a guy like that on the All-NBA Team.”
Personally, I was shocked that Harden didn’t get an inclusion on any of the teams, because he has by far the best offensive numbers at the shooting guard position.
The guard position is interchangeable in the voting system, as point guards and shooting guards are treated the same.
Out of the 6 guard spots up for grabs on the three All-NBA teams, 5 of those slots went to point guards. Klay Thompson was the only shooting guard to make a team, and he was on the Third Team.
According to this voting, Thompson has been deemed as the best shooting guard in the NBA. In terms of pure offense, Harden is in a category all by himself.
If I had to rank the top shooting guards in the NBA, I’d go Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, and Thompson in some order.
Harden’s absence of effort on defense is what makes slights like these understandable. DeRozan is similarly lacking in defensive ability. Butler and Thompson may not have the offensive prowess of those other 2, but they make up for it with great two-way play.
Durant’s comments are really another indication of his brewing dissatisfaction with the media that has exposed itself in recent years.
When he says that nobody appreciates Harden except the players in the league, that’s making a sharp distinction between who he deems as credible sources, and those he doesn’t. Only guys with the ability to play in the NBA can see how remarkable of a player Harden is.
I think Durant is painting with a broad brush on this one. While it’s true that Harden gets a lot of criticism, it never stems from his ability to create offense.
Nobody gets to the line with more ease than Harden. He’s extremely quick, and can create his own midrange shot so fluidly than any time he’s in a one-on-one situation, opposing fans let out an apprehensive sigh regarding an inevitable basket.
Media and fans recognize his offensive gifts while also being objective enough to realize that he’s a terrible defender. This isn’t discounting his talent as a player, but rather acknowledging a flaw.
In fact, what makes it especially frustrating is that Harden has the athleticism and physical tools to be a great defender. Defense is largely about effort and tenacity, and Harden simply doesn’t show the same passion he does on offense towards defense.
Half the game is played on defense, so Harden is essentially a liability for large portions of the narrative. If basketball was all about offense, Harden would undoubtedly be held in higher regard.
The counter argument is that many well-respected players in the league don’t play great defense, and they still garner praise from fans and the media. While that may be true, there’s a difference between not being a good defender due to inability, and showing a distinct lack of effort to even trying on defense.
There have been far too many moments in Harden’s career where he looks like he is just going through the motions on defense, and that’s disheartening for fans to watch.
While I agree that it’s amazing that Harden had those offensive numbers and didn’t make an All-NBA Team, those are purely offensive statistics.
Durant makes no mention of Harden’s defensive abilities in his discussion, and his conclusion that Harden is under-appreciated doesn’t really address the root causes of why this phenomenon is occurring for Harden.
Maybe Harden is underappreciated, but why does this sentiment persist? It’s not just because fans and media get pleasure from irrationally disliking a player. That may be true for some fans and media members, but I’d like to give them more credit than that as a whole.
There’s no conspiracy or mass movement amongst fans to purposefully bring Harden down. Anybody who denies his remarkable talent on offense isn’t being objective, but anybody who denies his lack of effort on defense is similarly partial.
He’s a fantastic offensive threat, but a liability on defense. While Durant is correct that Harden’s ability is often overlooked, he doesn’t state the reason for it. Harden is a one-way player, largely stemming from attitude as opposed to physical tools.
That’s a hard point for fans and media to reconcile. Durant is looking at Harden through rose-colored glasses, but he’s right when he implies that far too many fans and media members go the opposite route and are too harsh on him.
It’s probably somewhere in the middle: Harden should have made an All-NBA Team, but it’s not the travesty to exclude him that Durant makes it out to be.