His ability to score efficiently while shouldering a sky-high usage is what makes for a dominant offensive player. However, what separates Harden from the field isn’t his ability to hit shots but rather his ability to draw shooting fouls.
Harden over the course of his Rockets’ career was never near the top of the league in field-goal percentage or 3-point shooting. He was just slightly better than the league average on those shots but he was able to add 8.9 points a game from the line.
Free throws are not free, they are earned, and no one in the league is better at earning them than James Harden. As soon as Harden went out the door so did all of those points from the line.
In the eight games that Harden started for the Rockets, the team averaged 24 free throw attempts a game but that number has dipped to 20.3 since his departure. The Rockets offensive rating before the Harden trade was 109.8 points per 100 possessions, since then it has been 107.4.
The Rockets have lost 2.4 points per 100 possessions and 3.7 free-throw attempts a game. Harden has converted 85.9-percent of his career free throw attempts, which makes the drop on offense primarily being owed to the loss of James Harden’s trips to the line.
The Rockets’ defense is elite but they need a new offensive force to become a contender once again. Fortunately, there might be another offensive superstar that is available and the Rockets need to pounce.
Next: Why the Rockets need to trade for Bradley Beal