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Steve Ilardi-The Real Stars of the Season So Far(ESPN)

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by jscmedia, Dec 12, 2014.

  1. jscmedia

    jscmedia Contributing Member

    Feb 14, 1999
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    More Props for the the New Beard Moses ! MVP (lock if posted)

    Harden's new commitment to defense appears to be real -- and it makes him a legitimate MVP candidate.

    James Harden's matador defense is the stuff of legend, not to mention viral YouTube videos. According to RPM, his reputation for atrocious D last season was fully justified: His defensive RPM value (minus-2.84) was among the league's worst. Even his brilliant offensive play couldn't completely offset the damage, as he was nowhere to be found among last season's total RPM leaders.

    But Harden is one of several players -- together with DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Kyrie Irving -- who have taken their respective games to a whole new level after spending the summer with Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the Team USA staff. And while no one is ever going to confuse the Bearded One with Tony Allen, it's clear that Harden has elevated his defensive play this season.

    You can see it in the box score stats, where he has suddenly emerged as one of the game's most prolific shot-blockers in the backcourt (third among guards at 1.1 blocks per game) and climbed into the league's top 10 in steals (2.0 per game). You can see it even more clearly in his defensive RPM rating this season (1.82), quantitative evidence of a dramatic turnaround in overall defensive play.

    On the strength of such improvement, Harden has quietly posted the second-highest WAR in the league thus far, and propelled the Rockets to their red-hot 16-5 start this season.

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