Tony Allen On James Harden: “One Guy I Haven’t Figured All The Way Out”

The entire league is having trouble defending James Harden. But to hear a dogged, confident defender like the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tony Allen admit that he has trouble stopping The Beard? Talk about strengthening a MVP case. In an excellent feature story from Bleacher Report, Allen said that the Houston Rockets superstar is the “one guy” he has hasn’t “figured out.”

Allen gives detailed insight into how he defends legendary scorers Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant in the piece. Obviously, it’s worth a full read – stuff like “sitting on KD’s front leg to avoid a post-up” isn’t easily gleaned by the basketball-watching eye.

But it’s Allen’s admission that Harden – the league’s leading scorer at 27.0 points per game and the reigning Western Conference Player of the Month – is a test he hasn’t quite mastered that is of especially interesting note.

Here’s Allen on Harden, transcribed by B/R’s Jared Zwerling:

But one guy I haven’t figured all the way out yet is James Harden. He’s pretty crafty. I’m not impressed with his ball-handling, but his finishing skills are scary. Even though he’s lefty, if he goes right he’s going to put the ball out and get the foul. It’s kind of tough because you don’t want to get a foul called. And once you get your first or second foul, you kind of ease up.

“Crafty” is the word most used to describe Harden, and it makes sense – his knack for drawing fouls by extending the ball while driving and making defenders believe they can steal it is certainly wily. But to act as if the 25 year-old’s game relies on that nuance first and foremost is misleading.

Harden is a remarkably fluid athlete. He’s quick, strong, agile, and boasts balance the envy of every player this side of LeBron James. And of course, he’s a fantastic ballhandler, shot-maker, and passer. That Allen is “not impressed” with Harden’s handle seems like posturing – we’re of the opinion that The Beard is among the most dangerous and effective dribblers in basketball.

But we’re also not the one on the court defending him, let alone the player that held him to six points on 1-of-8 shooting in mid-November. Harden has torched the Grizzlies during Houston wins in their two matchups since, though, lending credence to Allen’s critique.

And if The Grindfather can’t stop Harden, it’s no wonder the rest of the NBA can’t, either.

What do you think?

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