Why James Harden is Struggling

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This year, Kevin Durant has been lighting up the competition with his incredible three-level scoring and playmaking abilities while standing at nearly seven feet tall.

Through four games, Durant is averaging 31 points on 55.8% from the field along with 9.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. He has been the bright spot for the Nets and the primary reason that the Nets were able to pick up a tough road win against the 76ers and a win against a crafty Wizards squad.

That being said, James Harden, Kevin Durant’s co-star (with Kyrie Irving still inactive), is significantly underperforming through the first four games of the season. His stat line is now 17.2 points on an inefficient 36.4% from the field and 32.3% from 3PT to go along with 7 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game.

A Free Throw Nightmare

While his inefficiency is part of why he is struggling this season, he is also having trouble getting to the line with the new NBA officiating guidelines on limiting fouls for non-basketball shot attempts.

While James Harden averaged 8.7 FT attempts per game and has been a familiar name near the top of the FT attempt per game list in the past, Harden is only averaging three FT attempts per game this season, ranking 69th on the FT attempts per game list.

James Harden clearly does not agree with these new rule changes, saying in a recent interview,

“I’m not the type to complain about it. I ask every official, if they see a foul, just call a foul. Sometimes I feel coming into a game it’s already pre-determined or I already have that stigma of getting foul calls.”

James Harden

He may have a point here, as Harden’s reputation as someone who has tried to force foul calls in the past may be altering how the referees decide to officiate his shot attempts.

Overall, the concern about James Harden currently should only be moderate, as he is still adjusting to the new rule changes and not having Kyrie Irving alongside him in the backcourt, even though he experienced that situation last year. Since Kyrie Irving is unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine, it may be wise for the Nets to prepare to trade him.

Trade On the Way?

One option would be Kyrie Irving for Ben Simmons, who is currently having internal issues with the 76ers, but it seems like the 76ers are hesitating to give up one of their stars until they are convinced that the situation cannot be resolved internally. There is a lot to unpack in that trade scenario, so another article will likely come on that topic once new developments surface.

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