James Harden unveiled his new one-footed, off-balance shot in preseason on Monday night. The shot had been a recent entry on the NBA offseason gossip conveyorbelt, so it wasn’t a shock when Harden gave a first view of it two minutes into the Houston Rockets’ demolition of the Shanghai Sharks.
Post-game comments from Harden, as reported by CBS Sports, suggest it won’t be a major part of his 2019/20 arsenal. Fans of The Beard will still be getting a healthy dosage of lobs, step-back threes and drives to his left. This new toy is something Harden will keep hidden away for much of the campaign, only occasionally bringing it out when he gets a bit bored or maybe for special occasions.
The fact he’s so comfortable with this to try it in an actual game is another reminder of his brilliance. Although we already knew that Harden is a master of adaptation and developing skills. While this shot looks a bit weird, it’s not a great revelation that Harden can produce this sort of thing.
Will it have any impact?
Ultimately, this doesn’t really change anything. Harden might try to keep defences off balance with it occasionally, but it’s hard to see what benefit he really gains from it. It doesn’t particularly help him create space – it’s easier to guard than his demon step-back. Giving the defence a different look is usually helpful though, so that’s maybe something.
It’s funky, and it’s a bit alien to anyone who’s watched even a bit of professional basketball. Shooting and taking off from the same leg is challenging, but Harden – far from the best athlete in the league – has proven time and again that he’s superb at controlling his body.
For all the intrigue into this new NBA season, Harden’s latest weapon is a long way down the list. There are plenty of question marks about the Houston Rockets, particularly Harden’s chemistry with Russell Westbrook. Unless this shot produces a crucial playoff buzzer beater, it’s going to be no more than a footnote on a potentially all-time great season.