In 2019, an article from NBCsports.com was written about how James Harden had mastered the art of drawing the foul, especially from beyond the arc. Harden averaged a career high 36.1 points per game that season, and also a career high at the time of 11 free throws per game. And Harden made each trip to the stripe count, as the shooting guard shot just under 88 percent from the free throw line.
But we are in a new era of basketball now. Referees are not calling fouls as often, and drawing fouls from beyond the arc is now a rare feat to accomplish. Without shooting an immense amount of free throws per game, can James Harden still be a dominant scorer?
New Foul Rules
Through the first week of the NBA season, free throws are at an all-time low. The league has made an effort to limit foul calls on players where the shooter moves in an abnormal fashion. If a shooter tries to bait the defender by pump faking and then jumping towards the defender to draw contact, referees are not calling that this season.
In layman’s terms, a foul will only be called when a defender oversteps their bounds and creates the unnecessary contact.
While the impact on the overall basketball atmosphere has been tremendous, as games are not constantly being slowed down by players shooting free throws over and over, the effect on certain players such as Harden has led to a decline in performance.
Effect on James Harden
Through 5 games so far in 2021, Harden is only averaging 3 free throws per game. Harden has expressed his frustration with the rule change, as he believes he is not receiving calls that he would otherwise get if he wasn’t known for drawing fouls.
The new rule is undoubtedly impacting the veteran in a negative manner as he is only averaging 16.6 points per game. While some of that is a product of being on the same team as scoring machine Kevin Durant, Harden’s all around offensive talent seems off kilter to begin the campaign.
But there is bound to be adjustment, as Harden has been drawing fouls and receiving calls for his entire NBA career. It has become a part of his game. Some players have a fadeaway, a step back, or any other type of signature move, but one of Harden’s signature ways of scoring has been getting to the free throw line.
Can Harden Bounce Back?
In the end, this is one of the most gifted players in the whole league. Harden will make the necessary adjustment and will be posting 25 points a game in no time. He has elite finishing ability, possesses one of the best euro steps in the game, and can knock down shots from deep.
But for now, Harden will need to work through this new rule and not let frustration get the best of him.