While many point to the new NBA rules regarding fouling the shooter, and what is now deemed legal and illegal, as a positive for the league, there are some players who are being forced to adjust their game. Most notably of this class, is former MVP James Harden. For a player that used to draw so many fouls, and shoot an absurd amount of free throws per game, Harden is seeing a concerning dip in his numbers this season, and it is not hard to see why.
The New NBA Rules Have Exposed James Harden
James Harden, 2pt FGs by game this season:
James Harden, FTs by game this season:
While still a great passer, the new rules have made him a totally unrecognizable player. It’s been just wild to see.
— nick wright (@getnickwright) November 4, 2021
THIS IS A FOUL. EVERY. DAMN. TIME. pic.twitter.com/OCm6fvMu8z
— Cody Mallory (@RealCodyMallory) November 9, 2021
Jordan Rules to Harden Rules?
The new NBA rules were designed to prevent refs from rewarding shooters trying to draw fouls with “non-basketball moves”. For too long, the offense was the benefit of the doubt, as the shooter could basically lunge themselves into the defender while showing the most minimal effort in trying to get a shot up, and the refs would blow the whistle more often than not.
It began to tarnish the product, giving way too much power to the players, and the refs being whistle-happy. This year, the association addressed this head on, and it has made for a much more watchable product, bringing back some of the fans who felt the modern game was outdated for them. James Harden, however, has been neutralized tremendously by these new NBA rules, and as we see how badly they have taken a toll on his numbers, it almost seems like the rules were designed to stop him, and only him.
Harden is averaging 18.2 PPG, the lowest since the 2011-12 season, his last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even more shocking, he is shooting a career low four free throws per game. James Harden. The one who lead the NBA in scoring for three consecutive seasons, and has always been accustomed to frequent visits to the free-throw line, now shooting just four per game through 11 games.
In nine seasons with the Houston Rockets, he averaged over ten free throws a night, so that alone is six points left on the board. Now, Harden shares the court with Kevin Durant, who leads the NBA in scoring with 29.5 PPG. While expecting two nearly 30 PPG scorers on one team is a tall order, one would think the player who is most capable of matching Durant’s output would be a James Harden-level of player.
Is James Harden Completely Neutralized Going Forward?
Harden, 32, is still among the best superstars the NBA has to offer, even if his scoring has taken a dip so far. He is always going to be a threat to opponents to create offense, whether he is doing it for himself or for others, especially with players like Durant and Kyrie Irving (maybe).
How Harden continues to adjust to the new NBA rules is going to dictate the direction of this Brooklyn Nets team. The new regulations are leaving a big chunk of points on the board for Harden. Harden has trademarked several moves made to draw contact from beyond the arc, whether it would be leaning into the defender in the air, flailing his arms after contact, sticking a foot in the air to create separation, or jumping into the defender’s landing space. While he is far from the only player to use these moves, as these new NBA rules have also hindered guys like Trae Young this season, the refs have started to crack down on The Beard.
These new NBA rules are designed to eliminate these sort of non-basketball maneuvers in order to create a more watchable product, and give some power back to the officials. While it may look a bit awkward at times, when a foul would normally be called on plays when they are not, it is the new norm in the NBA, and while it has been a positive for many, have these new NBA rules completely neutralized James Harden’s offensive capabilities at this point of his career?
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