How Will NBA’s New Rules Affect the Offensive Production of James Harden for the Brooklyn Nets?

Published 09/16/2021, 5:30 PM EDT
Jun 1, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard James Harden (13) reacts after a basket against the Boston Celtics during the second quarter of game five of the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


James Harden took a revolutionary decision for his career in January of last season. He decided he no longer wishes to be the primary ball-handler and volume shooter of the team. Those are individual goals that he has already shown the league that he can do with extreme effectiveness.

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He has also led the league in assists once. In the 2015-16 season, he played all the games for the Houston Rockets in the regular season. He can fill up the stat sheet on any day he wants to. His ability to get to the Free Throw Line is unparalleled in the league’s history.

Mar 19, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden (13) shoots over Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) in the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

However, according to The Athletic‘s Shams Charania, the NBA plans to implement new rules to reduce the number of fouls drawn on non-basketball moves. The NBA will instruct officials to recognize non-basketball moves, including:

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  • Offensive players who are launching themselves at defenders.
  • Offensive players abruptly deviate from their intended path.
  • Shooters’ legs are kicking out at unusual angles.
  • Offensive players hook the defender with their off-arm.

What does this rule change mean for James Harden?

James Harden has attempted 7659 free throws in his career, out of which he converted 6574. That is a strong 85.8% conversion rate. However, considering that he is notoriously famous for initiating contact and getting a foul on his drive to the basket, with the rule change, there will be a considerable reduction in the number of free throws he attempts this season.

With the rule change, Harden will probably no longer average 8.7 free throw attempts per game. This would significantly reduce his offensive production; he will likely average between 22 to 24 points per game.

This is especially true since his redefined role at Brooklyn allows him to make plays more than make field goal attempts. He was in the MVP discussion during the time he was healthy last season majorly because of his increased playmaking. Despite being out for most of last season, Harden averaged a steady 24.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 10.8 assists per game.

Jun 15, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard James Harden (13) controls the ball against Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday (21) during the third quarter of game five of the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What is expected from Harden now?

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Ever since he changed his role with Kyrie Irving and started playing Point Guard, his playmaking has significantly increased, especially compared to his time at Houston where he had to essentially carry the offense.

While this role change has obviously reduced his offensive production, this rule change will further impact his scoring. But if Harden’s history has taught us anything, it is that he has an amazing ability to adapt to change.

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Jokes aside, Harden can still put up MVP numbers with this rule change. He does not need to prove that to the NBA Community. One thing is for certain. James Harden’s peak is far from being over.

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Chaitanya Dadhwal

231 articles

Chaitanya Dadhwal is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Even though his journalism is driven by his desire to understand both sides of an argument and give a neutral perspective, he is biased towards Houston Rockets and Arsenal, and he has shown exactly how loyal he can be through tough times. Currently a Law student at Jindal Global Law School, he aims to have his own sports management firm one day and enjoys rap music during his time off.

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