James Harden made NBA history on Wednesday, and the league collectively shrugged. With six turnovers in the Houston Rockets’ 115-108 loss to the Utah Jazz, Harden broke the all-time record for turnovers in a single season, previously held by ... himself.
Harden had 374 turnovers last year. With 17 games to go in this season, Harden has 376 turnovers. And this really doesn’t matter. Sports Illustrated just ran a Lee Jenkins cover story about Harden following up the worst year of his life -- his term -- with the best. The Beard would surely like to be taking better care of the ball, but I doubt he’s losing much sleep over it while Houston owns the league’s second-best offense and the West’s third-best record.
If you’ve watched the Rockets at all, then you know that their entire attack is predicated on Harden running pick-and-rolls. He is third in the league in scoring, first in assists, first in total minutes and fifth in usage. He has the ball in his hands all the time, and he’s unafraid to make risky passes or dribble into the teeth of the defense. This lends itself to a high turnover rate, and it’s unlikely that anybody in Houston is complaining.
Harden, by the way, is in pretty good company. If you look at the NBA’s all-time leaders in turnovers in a season, you’ll see names like Artis Gilmore, Charles Barkley, Bob McAdoo, Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Karl Malone, Bernard King, Hakeem Olajuwon and Magic Johnson in the top 50. What else do all of those guys have in common? They’re in the Hall of Fame.
One more note: Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, Harden’s main competition for MVP, will almost certainly be second all-time by the end of the season. Westbrook has 348 turnovers, thanks mostly to his 42.3 percent usage rate, which is the highest in NBA history.