With the change in rules in the NBA this season, fans and analysts are calling out James Harden for an uncharacteristic slow start.
James Harden mastered the art of drawing fouls. However, his exploitation of the loopholes has resulted in the league taking drastic measures to stop intentional acts of drawing fouls.
No foul will be called for off-arm contact, veering off the path, leg kick, and launching at abnormal angles. This takes away a key part of James Harden’s game. NBA Analyst Nick Wright says “Without free throws, James looks like a perennial All-Star from being a MVP candidate”.
James Harden averaged 36 and 34 PPG in 18-19 and 19-20 seasons respectively. This season he is averaging 21 PPG which is a significant dip from his previous seasons but far away from struggling.
Is James Harden really struggling to adapt to the new rules?
While his scoring numbers have taken a hit, his playmaking has been elite this season. He is averaging 9.6 assists and 49.2 Assist%. His usage% has reduced to 27% from 39.6% a few seasons ago. He ranks 20th in total points created 20 games into the season.
This is the first time in his career that James Harden is playing as a secondary scoring option. This is one of the biggest factors in his reduced scoring numbers and efficiency.
The league FG% average has dropped from 46.6% to 45% this season, and the 3P% is the lowest the league has seen at 34.5%. This suggests the decline in efficiency is league-wide.
Brooklyn is 9-2 when James Harden scores 20 or more points on a game.
5-0 when Harden scores 25 or more points.
Nets are just 7-5 when Harden scores under 20 points.
The recipe is simple. Get Harden going. Nets aren’t built to win without him scoring 20-25+. https://t.co/CCTGGIhkDq
— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) December 5, 2021
Nets Head coach Steve Nash said this about how the rule changes have affected James Harden:
“He has, unfortunately, become the poster boy for not calling these fouls, some of them are clearly fouls, but the referees are so alert and aware, and he(James Harden) is the poster boy of these new decisions”.
The frustration of James Harden is evident as he replies “I don’t wanna talk about it” when asked about his struggles in a post-match press conference.
History dictates that great players have adapted to changes sooner or later. It is too soon to write off James Harden as an elite player in the league.