The Water Cooler

What Do James Harden’s 715 Free Throws Tell Us?

James Harden Free Throw In the 2014-15 season James Harden made 715 Free Throws. This total represents the 12th highest total made by any NBA player in the 74 year history of the league. It’s also the second highest total in more than 25 years. Whenever I see a player have a season that historic (in any category), it’s worth a deeper look.

To put into perspective the class that 715 free throw makes puts James Harden, let’s see what other players are responsible for the top 20 seasons for made free throws: Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley, Oscar Robertson, Kevin Durant, Moses Malone, Rick Barry (all with at least one season better than Harden’s), Barkley, K. Malone, Kobe, and Pettit (with seasons worse than Harden’s). If you haven’t noticed by now, James Harden is now in the company of many of the most prolific scorers in league history.

FTA FTM FT% Age Career Points Scoring Titles All-Time Rank
James Harden 824 715 86.7 25 8887 0 (3 Top 5)
Jerry West 977 840 82.1 26 25192 1 (5 Top 5) 23
Michael Jordan 972 833 85.7 23 32292 10 (11 Top 5) 4
Wilt Chamberlain 1363 835 61.3 25 31419 7 (9 Top 5) 5
Adrian Dantley 946 813 85.9 27 23177 2 (5 Top 5) 33
Oscar Robertson 938 800 85.3 25 26710 1 (9 Top 5) 13
Kevin Durant 840 756 90.0 21 15537 4 (5 Top 5) 125
Moses Malone 904 737 81.5 29 29580 0 (5 Top 5) 7
Rick Barry 852 753 88.4 22 25279 1 (4 Top 5) T-21
Charles Barkley 951 714 75.1 24 23757 0 (9 Top 10) 29
Karl Malone 918 703 76.6 25 32482 0 (13 Top 5) 2
Kobe Bryant 819 696 85.0 27 32482 2 (11 Top 5) 3
Bob Pettit 885 685 77.4 30 20880 2 (10 Top 5) 40
The worst scorers in the Top 20 (and remember Harden’s season ranks 12th) have 9 seasons in finishing in the top 10 (Barkley) or 4 seasons in the Top 5 in the league in scoring (Barry). Kevin Durant, the only other active player in this group is already on his way to a place in the Top 20 on the all-time list (barring injury) as the best scorer of his generation with 4 scoring titles at the age of 26. Other than Durant, the lowest ranking on the All-Time Scoring list is #40 Bob Pettit and his two scoring titles and 20,880 points. Pettit would have ranked higher had he played longer than 11 seasons (he averaged 26.4 points per game). Harden’s season ranks ahead of any season Kobe or K. Malone has ever posted from the Free Throw line. Kobe has 11 top 5 finishes and 2 scoring titles and Malone has more Top 5 scoring seasons than any other player in NBA history with 13.

On top of it all, Harden made those free throws at a better clip (86.7%) than anyone on the list other than Durant (90%) and Rick Barry (88.4%). There is no exception to this list. Literally every player who has made close to 715 free throws in a season is in the Hall of Fame (or named Kevin Durant) and high on the All-Time scoring list.  Every, single, one. Bottom line, Harden, by making 715 free throws last season is in the class of elite scorers and even in a worst case scenario, history would suggest that James Harden is on his way to becoming one of the greatest scorers of all-time. I’d predict that barring injury Harden will land north of 25,000 career points and likely in the top 25 on the all-time scoring list–right there with his old teammate, Kevin Durant.  Who knew you could know so much from free throws?

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