Off the Bench podcast: Does James Harden have the right mindset to ever get better on defense?

Carmelo Anthony entered the league as a green teenager in 2003. Fresh off leading Syracuse to its first men's NCAA championship, he displayed an offensive arsenal that immediately translated to the NBA, averaging 24.3 points over the course of his first four seasons.

Anthony, though, never developed his defensive skill set in the way his offense grew. He still earned 10 NBA All-Star selections, but did so on the back of his elite offensive arsenal. Roughly a decade later, Houston Rockets star James Harden, the presumptive MVP-winner, finds himself in a similar boat. Harden has never been a standout defender, but is so good offensively he has gotten by and passed as an average defender.

But at age 28, does Harden have the right mindset to improve defensively and avoid a Melo-like development?

Danny Kanell and Raja Bell talked about the very topic this week on the Off The Bench podcast,

"I believe that James Harden wants it very badly," said Bell. "I believe he will pour everything he has into that. Here's the problem with Harden: I don't think he's ever been told what it takes to get that."

You can listen to the complete podcast below:

Kanell offered up a similar sentiment, saying that Harden has a killer instinct on offense, like Anthony, that hasn't translated to the defensive end of the floor.

"I think he pours it in offensively," said Kanell. "I think the cool, laid back vibe actually works really well for him on offense. It kind of lulls you to sleep, then bam ... but I think on the defensive end of the court, I don't think he puts any energy into defense and says 'alright, I've got to do what it takes to win on this side of the court too.'

When I see that, I see shades of Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo Anthony never developed into that all-around player, and I don't know if James Harden will ever hone his craft on the defensive side of the court."

Harden has proven himself plenty capable to be a top-5 player with the Rockets, and may very well win the MVP Award as the league's best player this season. But for him to sustain his standing as the NBA's best, his development on defense could be the difference between being a dominant two-way player, and an elite offensive player who skates by on defense.

Our Latest Stories