Is James Harden’s New Shot Really Going to Change Basketball?
Innovation is a key part of many parts of life, particularly sports. If sports didn’t constantly evolve, they wouldn’t be as fun as we know them to be. But while most parts of this evolution are welcomed with open arms, some others are not. In basketball, you can point to the lack of allowable physicality as something fans don’t like, but they do love the proliferation of the three-point shot. One of the most famous active proponents of the three-pointer is the Houston Rockets’ James Harden. However, he’s debuting a self-created evolution of the shot this season. But how good will it be?
His new shot is a three-pointer taken off of one leg. The appeal of the shot is that it’s a shot taken immediately off-the-dribble, which makes it a defensive nightmare. However, initial returns from preseason don’t bode well, to say the least. Harden hasn’t made a single one of these shots, though he’s only attempted two.
It’s reasonable to believe that this will be a fruitless venture and something Harden largely abandons. Taking an off-balance three-pointer is extremely ill-advised. Since the three-point line is at least 22 feet away from the basket. The odds of making the shot via the standard preparation (planting two feet and then taking the shot) is usually around 35% for the average player. So, it’s already a less-than-likely shot to go in. Now throw in the fact that Harden would be off-balance, and that percentage goes down even further.
However, this could be really attractive from the perspective of sports betting, specifically prop bets. The relative unlikelihood of Harden making the shot would be enticing for sportsbooks to take bets on. There is a small issue though because these prop bets would need to be manually controlled, instead of by a computer. This is because the shot, while unique, is technically no different from a regular three-point shot, and a regular stat sheet wouldn’t notate the difference.
It’s also important to consider that James Harden is not a world-beater when it comes to three-point percentage. He’s a lifetime 36.5% shooter and shot 36.8% last season. In fact, his best season from behind the line came in 2011-2012 when he shot 39% in a lockout-shortened season. The reason why he’s so well-known for the shot is simply because he takes so many of them, so some of them are bound to go in. Add in the fact that he has a new teammate in Russell Westbrook who took 20.2 shots per game last season and you’ll realize that Harden’s numbers may actually go down.
This makes taking a low-percentage shot like Harden’s invented much less attractive and it likely won’t gain much traction outside of situations where the game is too far gone to remain competitive.