James Harden has attempted to add a new element to his game each season, which is part of what’s made him so great. One of the more recent adaptations he’s made to his game was the creation of the stepback 3-point shot.
Harden has made this shot look easy, although the laws of physics state otherwise. Harden patented this move and has been virtually unstoppable when he does it. Morey explained how he initially didn’t believe Harden would be able to pull this off, as this is a difficult shot.
Morey explained how he went from a skeptic to a believer in Harden’s signature move.
I saw James doing the stepback and I was nervous, because that’s a 20 percent shot. I just had a fundamental belief that his momentum is away from the hoop and it’s too hard. I had all these preconceived biases.
I didn’t say anything because he’s trying different things, since he’s an innovator. But then he starts making them at like 40 percent, and I’m like ‘we have the greatest player ever’. It’s insane. I don’t know how he does it.
He’s had people guarding him from behind. People have enough trouble on pindowns, but to do this from 27 feet with a guy in your face…”
This season, Harden is making 37.3 percent of his stepback triples, which is an improvement over the 31.9 percent of the other 3-pointers he’s made. Harden actually made 38.9 percent of his stepback threes during the 2018-19 season, compared to the 34.4 percent of the non-stepback threes he made.
During the 2017-18 season, Harden made 44.6 percent of his stepbacks, compared to 34.2 percent of his other 3-pointers. This has caused teams to defend him with a defender behind him, which Morey pointed out.
Harden has increased his stepback 3-point attempts in each of the following seasons, as he only attempted 2.4 stepbacks per game during the 2017-18 season, which increased to 6.9 attempts during the 2018-19 season. This season, he’s attempting 7.7 stepbacks per game, which has made 61.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.
That’s roughly nine percent more than the 2018-19 season, as 52.5 percent of his 3-point attempts were stepbacks last season.