HOUSTON - Since the start of the 2014-15 season, 36 players have been the closest defender of at least 40 of James Harden’s shot attempts, per Second Spectrum tracking data.
Can you guess which player among those 36, according to that same data, has held Harden to the lowest field goal percentage during this time period?
The answer, believe it or not, is Evan Fournier. Harden has made just 32.6 percent of the 43 shots he’s taken over the last five seasons when the Magic’s guard has been his closest defender.
Kawhi Leonard ranks No. 2 on this list, which includes regular season and playoff percentages. Others who have held the reigning league MVP below 35 percent shooting when they are his closest defender these last five years combined include Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Gary Harris and J.J. Redick.
Even more incredible is that Harden has shot just 4.8 percent – yes, under five percent – from 3-point distance on 21 attempts during this period when Fournier has been the closest defender.
Of course, this includes what transpired earlier this month when Harden, who has scored over 30 points in 22 consecutive games, went a woeful 1-of-17 from downtown against the Magic, tying Damon Stoudamire for most missed threes in a single game.
Fournier, according to Second Spectrum, contested nine of those 3-point attempts, all misses.
There’s no way of really stopping Harden, who still ended up with 38 points in that Jan. 13 contest in Orlando. He is arguably the best of all time at manipulating defenders, which is largely why he is able to initiate contact so often.
But, it does say something about Fournier’s defensive talents that he has been able to make things difficult for The Beard, who a few nights ago scored 61 against the Knicks, tying Kobe Bryant for most points scored by a visiting player at Madison Square Garden.
Check out Fournier guarding a few of Harden's 3-point attempts from the last several years: