How Rare Was James Harden's Stat Line Last Night?

Harden made a lot of his free throws last night, but was he all that effective from the field?

On Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets, James Harden became the fifth player to record 50 or more points in a game this season. In fact, he was the only player to have a double-double while doing so this season. But how Harden got to 50 points is a little odd.

Check out his line from the game below. We'll break it down more throughout the article.


First, I want to point out that there have been 47 games where someone has notched at least 50 points and 10 rebounds. That company includes Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon, just to name a few.

So how does Harden's game compare? Let's start with the good aspects of Harden's line.

Harden was very good at getting to the free throw line last night, and his 25 attempts rank third among players with at least 50 points and 10 rebounds. Harden had a great success rate as well, hitting 22 of them for an 88% shooting percentage. Harden's shooting percentage from the charity stripe ranks only 17th, but he has the most free throw makes of the 50 and 10 club.

The free throw greatness doesn't stop there according to Tom Haberstroh:

With 580 free throws on the season, Harden is averaging 8.66 free throw makes a game. If he were to play all of the remaining 14 games for the Rockets this season, he would become just the 17th player in NBA history to make at least 700 free throws in a season, joining the ranks of a very elite club, all of which are in the Hall of Famers outside of Kevin Durant.

But that's where the accolades actually stop. With nearly half of Harden's points coming from freebies, did he do well from the field? Let's take a look at his shot chart.

It's interesting to note that Harden made a majority of his shots at the rim. Attacking the rim led to a lot of this free throw attempts, but also made him less effective on the court as a whole.

Harden has the distinction of making the fewest field goals in a game with at least 50 points and 10 rebounds. Part of that starts with the number of attempts he took -- 27 of the 47 qualifying games have seen least 30 shots from the field, but Harden attempted just 27. There have been just eight other games with the same or fewer attempts from the field. Harden did attempt 12 from downtown, and while that's tied for the third highest total in the 50 and 10 club, he only made 4.

When we break this down by Harden's percentages, it only looks slightly better. Harden's Effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%) is just 51.9%, ranking 44th of 47 games. A player's eFG% adds weight to three-pointers, so Harden is helped by making four of them but hurt at the same time because he attempted 12 of them. The highest eFG% of the 50 and 10 club belongs to Karl Malone at an outstanding 80.8%.

We expect a bump in Harden's True Shooting percentage (TS%), as that factors in his excellent performance from the free throw line, but that only increases slightly to 65.8%. This percentage comes in at 36th out of the 47 games -- nothing to really get excited about. The highest TS% belongs to, again, Malone at 84.4 TS%, via 61 points no less.

Harden pulled off a great game, joining a select few in getting 50 points and 10 rebounds in a game. The point total was also a career high for him, as his previous high was 46 points in a game.

However, we shouldn't be surprised that he's gotten to 50 points in a game via free throws. His eFG% for this game was nearly identical to his season average in eFG% (51.2%), and his TS% was actually up a few points from his season average (60.4%). So while this is an infamous and noteworthy game all at the same time, it wasn't really out of the norm for Harden to accomplish a 50-point game in this fashion.