1. Harden’s (lack of) reliance on the free-throw line
Headed into the 2021-22 season, the NBA implemented rules that would reduce the number of foul calls on non-basketball moves. And if there’s one player that excelled at making it to the free-throw line based off of his theatrics, it was Harden.
His game has understandably taken a hit. At the start of the season, you couldn’t help but feel bad watching Harden. Although he was well aware of the new rule, he was clearly frustrated over not receiving the same calls that he had been used to getting for the entirety of his career.
As recently as the 2019-20 season, James averaged 11.8 free-throw attempts per game. In the 23 games that he’s played in so far this year for Brooklyn, he’s averaging 7.2 trips to the line. Harden’s shot 10+ free throws in only seven games this season and in those alone, he averaged 29.8 points.
Meanwhile, he’s averaging 20.6 points per game, his lowest since the 2011-12 season with Oklahoma City. Harden’s game was orchestrated around making it to the free throw line, and it’s been difficult for him to break old habits.
The NBA is more entertaining to watch now that the game constantly isn’t being interrupted by the whistle, but Harden’s been negatively affected. At the start of the season, he was asked if he felt like the poster boy for the new rule, to which he replied, “for sure.”
There are still 59 regular-season games left for Harden to reinvent his game, but the clock is ticking for him and the Nets. There should’ve been more of a clear adaption at this point.