Just like all other NBA greats, there is no way to stop James Harden. His skillset is arguably the most complete in the league. He scores at an efficient level at every spot on the floor whether it’s at the rim, in the midrange or from three. On top of that he’s the best in the league at getting his shot off. Cut off a lane to the basket? He’ll step back and bury the three. Get up in his face and he has the quickness to blow by his defender and sore at the rim. Stop his route to the basket? He’ll make a perfect pass to either the wing for a three or an alley-oop to Clint Capela.
And let’s not even get into his ability to draw fouls.
But there are a few ways to slow him down some. There had been a possible fourth way to stop him but Dante Exum is out with an injury.
Let’s get to some ideas.
1. Force him right
When driving to the rim, Harden will default left to his dominant left hand. This video shows how the Milwaukee Bucks did a great job guarding him by always forcing him right. When done well it looks like it can create a lot of problems for not only his scoring but interrupting passing lanes also.
The difference between Utah and Milwaukee is Milwaukee has better wing defenders in Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and sometimes Giannis Antetokounmpo—if he’s guarding the perimeter and not the opposing team’s best big man—which makes it a little easier to pull off a more complicated scheme like this.
But the Jazz do have a guy named Rudy Gobert. Gobert will lock down the paint better than anyone else in the league. Because Gobert is so dominant inside, it should allow the other players on the team to do some of these zone schemes shown.
Even if the Jazz are able to pull off something like that, Harden is still one of the craftiest, most skilled players in the league and will find ways to score.
2. Hire a double agent
Former teammates sometimes have secrets that no one else knows. Patrick Beverly who played for a good amount of years with James Harden in Houston has seen some things. He’s had to guard James Harden in practices, watched film with him, and broke bread with him. Beverly knows him. If only Beverly would be so kind to share it ...
Et tu, Brute?
That sure looks to be Patrick Beverly—or should I say future Jazzman Patrick Beverly—giving the Utah Jazz the defensive version of Michael’s Secret Stuff. All of that reenactment by Beverly sure looks like he’s imitating James Harden. I’m sure Beverly has seen how James Harden hunts for drawn fouls.
I’m sorry, there’s not really a second way to stop him. He’s really good and might be the MVP again this season.
That’s why the Jazz need to think outside the box on this one.
Are there some unseen advantages the Jazz can pull off? Is there some sort of hidden ritual in Tibet that can put a curse on Harden? Maybe in pre-game warm ups the Jazz can perform a ritual dance to give him some bad juju?
Personally, I’m willing to do what it takes to get the victory. If that means I have some sort of weird voodoo doll collection, so be it. I don’t care how many side-eye looks I get from my wife as I frantically poke a straw doll with tears in my eyes as Harden drains another step-back, I’m willing to do whatever it takes and so should Utah!
The moral of this story is that James Harden is to offense, what Rudy Gobert is to defense. He’s a system unto himself and the Rockets have created the perfect synergy of players around him.
If the Jazz are able to slow him down this series, they have a chance, but no one has done that to Harden this year consistently, especially since the first quarter of the season.
The Jazz have their work cut out for them.