At the end of September, the NBA announced some changes to the way certain plays will be officiated. In an extensive Twitter thread, the NBA's officiating account went into detail on their new interpretive change to the way "abnormal and non-basketball moves" by offensive players will be officiated.
The primary focus of this rule change was to no longer reward offensive players who initiate contact with their defender in order to earn free throws. Over the last few seasons, this strategy has become especially prevalent, with offensive players lunging into defenders in an attempt to draw a foul. With the NBA's new interpretation of this move, the offensive player will now be given an offensive foul if the contact is excessive, or the play will result in a non-call if the contact is marginal.
A list of players were expected to be under microscopes this season as fans analyze the way these new rules will impact their performances, and atop that list for many people was Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden. Since 2012, when James Harden arrived in Houston, nobody in basketball has shot more free throws than him. In fact, nobody is even close.
Since the 2012-13 season, James Harden has shot 6,715 free throws. The next closest player is Russell Westbrook with 4,753 attempts, nearly 2,000 fewer than Harden. During that same span, Harden has made 100 more free throws than field goals. To provide an even greater understanding of how much time Harden has spent at the free throw line in his career, 121 players in NBA history have made at least 6,000 field goals. James Harden is the only one who has more free throws made than field goals made.
After the Nets loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday afternoon, Steve Nash voiced his frustrations about the way James Harden has been officiated. According to Ayayi Browne, who covers the Nets for USA Today, Steve Nash believes James Harden is being unfairly treated by the NBA's new rules, and called him the "poster boy" of the rule change.
Through three games, Harden has shot just 9 free throws which is significantly lower than his per game averages for his career. It will be interesting to see how his game is impacted if the officials remain consistent with the way they officiate these new interpretive changes.