The NBA’s All-Defensive teams were announced on Wednesday, and there were generally no surprises. Rudy Gobert earned another first-team all-defense selection, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George joined him in their rightful places. As is the case with these awards, there’s always a wildcard of a vote that makes you scratch your head and squint your eyes to make sure you read it correctly. This year was no different.
If you scan down those lists, you’ll see at least one name that does not belong on an All-Defense list. James Harden, who has had entire mixtapes made of his defensive lapses, not only received two votes to be included on the list, but was voted first-team All-Defense by both voters. Those were the only votes the former MVP received.
Everyone piled on Harden’s defensive reputation a few years ago, and it’s been blown far out of proportion. When he tries, he’s athletic and long enough to hold his own without too much trouble. Even when it’s clear he doesn’t care, he isn’t that much worse than many of his counterparts. But first-team All-Defense? Come on now.
These awards are based off the votes of media members from around the country, so one would imagine an enterprising Rockets writer or two decided to toss Harden’s name in the basket. Either they believed Harden’s defense has improved so much this year he should be rewarded for it, or they thought it would be hilarious to spawn hundreds of articles just like this one. Personally, I lean towards the latter.
The other fun vote was for Kyrie Irving, another offensive star with the defensive ability of a turnstile. To his credit, he did visibly ratchet up his effort at times and had one of the highest steal rates of his career. But All-Defense? Negative.