James Harden is one of the NBA’s most popular players, and he has been known to put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses by shooting over 50% from 3-point range. In 2015, he was playing alongside Dwight Howard and Chris Paul at the forefront of a team that captured an unheard-of 67 wins. While many great players have made their mark in basketball history, it is hard to find one who can shoot like James does as well as play defense against both points guards and centers with such proficiency.
James Harden has made free throws and 3-pointers like no one else in NBA history. He is the only player to have a free throw percentage of over 90% for his career.
Though Joel Embiid continued his MVP and scoring-title hunts for the Philadelphia 76ers in a 121-106 win against the Chicago Bulls on March 7, James Harden continued to take the shots that he’s excelled at like no other.
The bearded shooting guard, who was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster transaction shortly before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, put up a solid, if unspectacular, stat line of his own: 16 points, eight rebounds, 14 assists, and just three turnovers.
Individually, Harden’s performance against the Bulls isn’t deserving of praise. Instead, the game’s significance — two positions on all-time leaderboards — demonstrates how he’s evolved into such a singularly powerful figure in historical discussions.
He’s a master of isolation, but his greatest strength comes from his unrivaled mix of threes and freebies.
James Harden set records in terms of free throws and three-pointers.
Harden has received a lot of flak over the years for his whistle-drawing practices. It’s apparent at this point that he has a flair for abusing the rule book with rip-through actions, landing in areas where defenders can’t avoid contact, and driving to the basket while courting roughness from backpedaling opponents who have to, well, do something.
Exploiting the rule book, on the other hand, is a component of the game. Flopping has been present since the beginning of the NBA, and has even been featured in Sports Illustrated articles – one, published by long-retired Boston Celtics icon Frank Ramsey, was literally headlined “Smart Moves by a Master of Deception.”
Harden’s style of play isn’t very attractive, and it might lead to further rule changes, but it’s successful. It’s also telling that no one has been able to duplicate it — yes, they’ve tried (see: Young, Trae), but no one has been able to create that coveted carbon copy.
The 32-year-old climbed past Paul Pierce and into ninth place on the all-time list for most free throws made after shooting 5-of-6 against Chicago, which isn’t exactly a normal effort by his high standards.
Any changes in the top ten should be noted. Take a look at the names mentioned in the NBA’s official account’s tweet above. When combined with Harden’s other March 7 achievement, it becomes even more remarkable.
He only made one of five three-point attempts in the 15-point win, but it was enough to equal Reggie Miller for third place on the all-time three-point list:
Pierce is the only other player in the top 10 in both categories, but he’ll lose his three-point crown to an immortal LeBron James in the near future.
Harden’s three-point shooting doesn’t get nearly as much attention as his free-throw shooting does, but he’s still one of the best of all time in that area. For years, his step-back jumper, which frequently borders on traveling, has been unstoppable, and his silky lefty stroke has irritated countless opponents.
The only players within screaming distance of his unusual position as a free-throw devotee and three-point virtuoso are Damian Lillard (5.5 free throws made and 3.0 three-pointers made per game), Luka Doncic (5.6 and 2.7), Trae Young (6.4 and 2.5), and Kevin Durant (6.7 and 1.9). They can’t match his 7.5 and 2.8 made baskets per game, either.
Harden is a three-point shooting and free-throw shooting machine.
Only Joel Embiid (7.7) has more free throws made per game than James Harden (7.5) among players with at least 200 NBA games and at least one game played in the three-point era. At the same time, the bearded wonder has made more three-pointers per game (2.8) than everyone but Klay Thompson (2.9), Damian Lillard (3.0), Buddy Hield (3.0), Duncan Robinson (3.2), and Stephen Curry (3.2). (3.8).
Let’s add them together and look at the total number of points created every game from free throws and three-pointers:
- 15.77 for James Harden
- Curry, Stephen: 15.2
- Damian Lillard (14.55), Damian Lillard (14.55), Damian L
- Trae Young’s time is 14.02 seconds.
- Luka Doncic has a rating of 13.67.
- Kevin Durant (12.34) Kevin Durant (12.34) Kevin Durant (12.
- Mitchell, Donovan: 12.18
- 11.5 Paul George
- 11:17 Joel Embiid
- Gilbert Arenas has a rating of 11.08 out of ten.
With the exception of Arenas, an ahead-of-his-time guard who would have been even more dominating in today’s NBA, every player on the list is still active. Young and Doncic, in particular, have an opportunity to continue carving out greater responsibilities in the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks offenses, respectively, and might continue their ascensions.
But, for the time being, Harden is in a league of his own.
And, given that he’s averaged 16.2 meaningful points per game in his first five games with the Sixers, prospering even as he adjusts to Doc Rivers’ scheme and learns how to play alongside a ball-dominant big in Embiid, he may not be done yet.
Unless otherwise stated, all stats are courtesy of Basketball Reference and are current as of March 8.
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James Harden is an American professional basketball player for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association. He was selected with the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, but was traded to the Rockets on draft night. He won back-to-back scoring titles in 2012 and 2013, and has been named to six All-NBA teams. Reference: james harden 2021 stats.
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