Home Uncategorized James Harden might be 'most unguardable player' ever, says Charles Barkley

James Harden might be 'most unguardable player' ever, says Charles Barkley

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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick discusses Game 1 victories for both the Rockets and Thunder in the Western Conference playoffs. USA TODAY Sports

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Shortly after James Harden did as James Harden does, scoring 44 points Sunday night to lead his Houston Rockets to a victory in Game 1 of their first-round series with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Charles Barkley posed a question to his Inside the NBA colleagues.

“Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, George Iceman Gervin, Kevin Durant and James Harden,” the Hall of Famer began. “Who is the best individual scorer out of those guys?”

Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal were quick to go with Bryant over Harden — “all day, every day,” O’Neal put it.

“I don’t know, man,” Barkley responded. ” … James Harden, to me, might be the most unguardable player I’ve ever seen.”

Chuck: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, George “Ice Man” Gervin, Kevin Durant and James Harden. Who’s the best individual scorer? 🤔

The #InsideTheNBA crew presented by @Kia gives their pick. pic.twitter.com/VtFK9dTuoH

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 16, 2018

The consensus among the group was that Harden is top-five all-time on that front. But best ever? Already? Let’s pump the brakes.

That’s not to say Harden — who should, and likely will, be named regular-season MVP at the NBA Awards show in June — isn’t among the best of the best. As was the case Sunday night, the versatility of his game so often proves to be too much to handle, even for the league’s best defenders.

An #MVP performance in Game 1 for @JHarden13. 👏

🏀 44 Points

👊 8 Assists pic.twitter.com/fqHg1Atk9S

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 16, 2018

“He’s a hell of a player, everybody knows that,” three-time All-Defensive Second Teamer Jimmy Butler said after the game. “You don’t just guard him with one guy. It’s everybody out there. Everybody has to be in the correct position. Challenge shots, contest him at the rim.”

Asked about the individual defense Butler and Derrick Rose played on Harden, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau chuckled.

“There were several plays in which I thought we defended well and he made,” Thibodeau said. “James is that type of player. We’ve seen it all year. Very difficult to guard. Basically, you have to guard him with your whole team. It’s not just his scoring, but his playmaking. All the things that he does.”

In addition to the 44 points (on 15-for-26 shooting), Harden tallied eight assists, made seven of his 12 three-point attempts and shot a game-high nine free throws.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ AJ Neuharth-Keusch on Twitter @tweetAJNK

James Harden through the years

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Flip through the gallery to see James Harden through

Flip through the gallery to see James Harden through the years.  Steve Mitchell, US Presswire
2007: Artesia high school guard James Harden.

2007: Artesia high school guard James Harden.  Bob Riha, Jr., USAT
2007: Artesia high school guard James Harden.

2007: Artesia high school guard James Harden.  Bob Riha, Jr., USAT
2008: Arizona State's James Harden gets fouled by USC's

2008: Arizona State’s James Harden gets fouled by USC’s Daniel Hackett.  Robert Hanashiro, USAT
2009: Arizona State guard James Harden goes up for

2009: Arizona State guard James Harden goes up for a layup.  Matt York, AP
2009: Alfred Aboya and Jrue Holiday double team Arizona

2009: Alfred Aboya and Jrue Holiday double team Arizona State guard James Harden during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game.  Gus Ruelas, AP
2009: James Harden is drafted by the Thunder with the

2009: James Harden is drafted by the Thunder with the third pick.  Emile Wamsteker, USA TODAY
2010: James Harden goes up for a layup against the

2010: James Harden goes up for a layup against the Philadelphia 76ers.  Jesse D. Garrabrant, NBAE/Getty Images
2010: Kevin Durant and James Harden look on during

2010: Kevin Durant and James Harden look on during a game in Oklahoma City.  Sue Ogrocki, AP
2011: James Harden is congratulated by teammate Kevin

2011: James Harden is congratulated by teammate Kevin Durant after Harden scored against the Miami Heat in the fourth quarter.  AP
2011: DeMarcus Cousins, left, jokes around with James

2011: DeMarcus Cousins, left, jokes around with James Harden as they warm up before a basketball game at Trinity University in Washington.  Charles Dharapak, AP
2012: James Harden celebrates a three-point shot during

2012: James Harden celebrates a three-point shot during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers.  Richard Rowe, US Presswire
2012: James Harden guards Kobe Bryant in the first

2012: James Harden guards Kobe Bryant in the first quarter at the Staples Center.  Jayne Kamin-Oncea, US Presswire
2012: James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant

2012: James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant celebrate during a game against the San Antonio Spurs.  Brendan Maloney, US Presswire
2012: James Harden, Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher walk

2012: James Harden, Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher walk off the court during the second quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.  Jerome Miron, US Presswire
2012: James Harden reacts after making a three-point

2012: James Harden reacts after making a three-point shot during the second half of an exhibition game against Spain.  Bob Donnan, US Presswire
2012: James Harden looks on before the men's quarterfinal

2012: James Harden looks on before the men’s quarterfinal between Brazil and Argentina in the London Olympic Games.  Mark J. Rebilas, US Presswire
2012: James Harden gestures to the crowd during the

2012: James Harden gestures to the crowd during the third quarter against the New York Knicks.  Troy Taormina, US Presswire
2012: Ex-teammates James Harden and Kevin Durant look

2012: Ex-teammates James Harden and Kevin Durant look at the scoreboard during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena.  Kevin Jairaj, US Presswire
2013: James Harden reacts after a basket against the

2013: James Harden reacts after a basket against the New Orleans Hornets.  Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports
2013: James Harden celebrates after making a three-point

2013: James Harden celebrates after making a three-point basket against the Golden State Warriors.  Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
2013: Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant

2013: Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant watch the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.  Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
2013: James Harden celebrates during a game against

2013: James Harden celebrates during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports
2014: James Harden during the NBA All-Star Game player

2014: James Harden during the NBA All-Star Game player press conferences.  Derick Hingle, USA TODAY Sports
2014: James Harden reacts during the final World Basketball

2014: James Harden reacts during the final World Basketball match between the United States and Serbia.  Daniel Ochoa de Olza, AP
2015: James Harden throws out the fist pitch before

2015: James Harden throws out the fist pitch before the Houston Astros play the Los Angeles Angels.  Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports
2015: James Harden celebrates against the Oklahoma

2015: James Harden celebrates against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports
2016: James Harden celebrates after scoring a basket

2016: James Harden celebrates after scoring a basket during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports
2016: James Harden jokes with Kobe Bryant during the

2016: James Harden jokes with Kobe Bryant during the second half at the Toyota Center.  Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports
2016: James Harden reacts during the third quarter

2016: James Harden reacts during the third quarter against the New York Knicks.  Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports
2016: James Harden reacts after a play during the third

2016: James Harden reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns.  Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports
2017: A fan holds a James Harden MVP sign as the Rockets

2017: A fan holds a James Harden MVP sign as the Rockets play the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Thomas Shea, USA TODAY Sports
2017: Stephen Curry and James Harden react during the

2017: Stephen Curry and James Harden react during the three-point contest during NBA All-Star Saturday Night.  Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports

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