Thursday, April 16, 2015

Threes and frees: James Harden is the all-time king

Daryl Morey's vision for the Rockets is built upon taking and making the most efficient shots on the court: two-pointers at the rim, free throws,and three-point shots. We don't have historical data for layups and dunks, but we can take a look at who's scored the most points from 3PT and FT in a season.

(Having trouble seeing the chart? Click here.)

Conclusion: James Harden is Daryl Morey's cyborg.

It's hard to imagine that just three years ago, it wasn't clear whether or not Harden was worth a max contract. As is often the case, the theme here is fit really matters. Would Harden still be an All-Star in a more conventional offensive scheme? Sure. But would he singlehandedly push the boundaries of shot efficiency? Probably not.

A couple of other notes:

  • Harden unseats former teammate Kevin Durant from the top spot by ever-so-slightly edging him in both 3PT and FT made. Harden attempted 64 more three's than KD did last season.
  • Gilbert Arenas with two of the top 5 on this list? Yessir. Gil's 2005-06 season is almost identical to Harden this season in terms of 3P% (37.5% vs 36.9%) and 3PA (555 vs 540). But Harden shot much better (and a little more frequently) at the charity stripe.
  • Stephen Curry followed up his top-20 all-time finish last season with an even better show this time. All it took to get to the top 10 was nailing 44% of his threes and missing only 29 FTs all season. Read that last sentence again.
  • The all-time leader without making a single 3PT? That would be Jerry West, with 840 freebies in 1966. Wilt Chamberlain is just behind him with 835 free throws made in 1962. Of course, it took Wilt almost 400 more attempts than West.
  • In case you were wondering: LeBron James reached his "threes and frees" peak in 2008-09,when he scored 990 combined points from those areas. That's good for 32nd all-time (incidentally, he also has spots 33 and 34 on the list).