Monday saw James Harden torment the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves for 31 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and four blocks. The world focused on the triple-double, the fourth of his career, and rightfully so. That last line, the four swats, is also a cause for recognition.
Why? Among NBA guards, Harden has the third-most blocks (46), behind only K.J. McDaniels and Danny Green. There aren’t any clamoring for him to get an All-Defensive team nod (except maybe Clyde Drexler and Daryl Morey), but his effectiveness defending the ball has ratcheted up a notch.
How is he racking up his swats? Smart weak-side help, strong hands, deceptive closeout speed, long arms, timing, timing, timing and strength. The same traits that make him a terror with the ball have emphatically caught DeMarcus Cousins, Zach Randolph (and others) off guard on the other end.
Harden has 26 games to finish off his best season and MVP submission. If he sustains his new-found tendency for rejections (his 46 blocks already are a career high), it will be harder to keep the Maurice Podoloff Trophy off his mantle. Especially with moves like this: