With Russell Westbrook and James Harden leading their respective teams in turnovers, these two players are on pace to join an exclusive club of only a few. The question is which team will be the last one standing by season’s end?
The “James Harden and Russell Westbrook are Turnover Machines” is a story about the last 40 turnover leaders. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are the two highest turnover leaders in NBA history.
When you have the ball in your hands, you must perform. If you turn the ball over too often, it may lead to devastating losses. That is why teams prefer to have a dependable point guard in charge. However, based on the previous 40 years of turnover leaders, a guard does not have to be the league’s leading turnover maker.
Some players, like as Russell Westbrook and James Harden, have dazzled us at the top level, but flair comes with fire. The high-octane character of these athletes has resulted in historically high turnover rates. Take a look at some of the other high-turnover players over the previous 40 years.
Moses Malone – 308 – 1981 (Houston Rockets)
Malone was named to the All-NBA Second Team as well as the All-Star team after leading the league in rebounds (14.8 per game). With 28.8 points per game, he came in second in the league scoring race, losing to Adrian Dantley. Malone had the ball in his hands a lot this season, and he was probably double-teamed a few times, resulting in multiple turnovers.
Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons) and Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz) each scored 299 points in 1982.
Isiah Thomas and Adrian Dantley tied for the league lead in turnovers in an unusual circumstance. During the Pistons’ competitive run in the 1980s, Thomas was the team’s primary ball handler. Dantley, on the other hand, averaged over 30 points a game for four years in a row, including topping the league in scoring two times.
Ray Williams, 335, 335, 335, 335, 335, 335, 335, 3 (Kansas City Kings)
Williams had just finished a season in which he established a Nets record with 52 points in a game against the Pistons. The Nets sent him to the Kings in exchange for Phil Ford over the summer. Following that, Williams led the league in turnovers. He was traded back to the New York Knicks for Billy Knight and cash after one season.
342 – Jeff Ruland – 1984 (Washington Bullets)
Ruland had one of his greatest seasons of his career during the 1983-1984 season. On his way to averaging 22 points and 4 assists per game, he was third in the NBA in rebounds and sixth in field goal percentage. The Bullets qualified for the playoffs before falling to the Celtics in the first round. Ruland averaged 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists in the series while shooting 52 percent from the floor.
Ralph Sampson, 326, Ralph Sampson, 326, Ralph Sampson, 326, Ralph (Houston Rockets)
For the first time in three years, the Rockets improved by 19 games and qualified for the playoffs. With 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds, Sampson enjoyed his finest individual season of his career. It earned him a spot on the All-NBA Second Team, as both Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon were selected for the All-Star Game, where Olajuwon won the MVP award. During the regular season, Sampson became the first player in NBA history to have at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals since steals were introduced as a metric.
Charles Barkley – 350 – 1986 (Philadelphia 76ers)
In just his second complete season in the league, Barkley topped the league in turnovers. Barkley led the team in rebounds and was the second-leading scorer, indicating a significant improvement in his entire game. Barkley was chosen Second-Team All-NBA after averaging 20.0 points and 12.8 rebounds over the course of the season. However, the Bucks defeated the squad in the second round of the playoffs.
Ron Harper, 345, 345, 345, 345, 345, 345, 345, 3 (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Harper was drafted with the No. 8 overall choice in the 1986 NBA Draft, making him a newcomer to the league. He scored 30 points in just his sixth game overall. Later in the season, he set a season best with 40 points. He started all 82 games and was runner-up for Rookie of the Year. With that said, he led the league in turnovers, so he committed plenty of rookie blunders.
Karl Malone – 325 – 1988 (Utah Jazz)
The Jazz were able to compete in the Western Conference because to the offensive foundation of John Stockton and Karl Malone. The Jazz finished with a 47-game winning streak and qualified for the playoffs. Stockton was the star of the show, so you’d think he’d lead the league, but it was his buddy who committed too many mistakes. Malone, who averaged 27.1 points per game, was probably being double-teamed most nights. Malone was signed to a 10-year, $18 million deal at the conclusion of the season.
Kevin Johnson – 322 – 1989 (Phoenix Suns)
Johnson developed as an exceptional player in his first full season with the Suns. Johnson shot 50.5 percent from the field and 88.2 percent from the free-throw line while averaging 20.4 points and 12.2 assists per game. He is the only player in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 12 assists in a season, joining Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. It was the first of three seasons in which he averaged 20 and 10, joining Oscar Robertson and Thomas as the only players to accomplish it for three years in a row.
Isiah Thomas – 322 – 1990 (Detroit Pistons)
Because everyone was focused on his Finals MVP, few people recall Thomas led the league in turnovers this year. The Pistons secured the No. 1 seed and subsequently defeated the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals in seven games. The Pistons won the NBA Finals for the second time, beating Clyde Drexler’s Trail Blazers.
Magic Johnson – 314 in 1991 (Los Angeles Lakers)
‘Throughout the years’ Johnson never led the league in turnovers, but he did lead the league in assists once. Johnson earned his third MVP title this time, despite playing without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most of the season. You may blame his turnover problems on his first season under Mike Dunleavy, but he still put up good numbers with 19.4 points, 12.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds. The Lakers reached the NBA Finals before falling in five games to the Bulls.
286 – John Stockton – 1992 (Utah Jazz)
Stockton, like Johnson, was so skilled that he only led the league in turnovers once throughout his career. Stockton and Malone combined to become the league’s finest dynamic combo. Malone finished second in points in his career, while Stockton holds the record for most assists.
Shaquille O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal (Orlando Magic)
Shaq was the first overall choice in the NBA Draft in 1992. O’Neal averaged 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game on 56.2 percent shooting. Since Michael Jordan in 1985, he has been elected Rookie of the Year and the first rookie to be voted an All-Star. Thanks to their big guy, who required at least three players to protect him at times, the Magic won 20 more games than the previous year.
Jim Jackson – 334 – 1994 (Dallas Mavericks)
Jackson only played in 28 games during his debut season. He then went on to start 82 games, averaging 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game in 37.4 minutes a game. The “Three Js” were established by Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd, and Jackson. However, his great moniker didn’t help him make a selection.
Glen Robinson – 313 – 1995 (Milwaukee Bucks)
Robinson’s first season saw him lead the league in turnovers, following in the footsteps of Shaq. In 1994, Robinson was selected as the first overall choice. Robinson signed a rookie-record 10-year, $68 million contract before the season, which is remains the highest rookie contract. Robinson topped all rookies in scoring with 21.9 points per game, but he came in third place in the Rookie of the Year vote behind Grant Hill and Jason Kidd.
Jason Kidd – 326 – 1996 (Dallas Mavericks)
Kidd was selected second to Robinson in the 1994 draft and went on to lead the league in turnovers. Despite being selected as a starter in the 1996 All-Star Game, Kidd’s time in Dallas is known more for his conflicts with coaches, which led to his trade in his third season.
Allen Iverson – 337 in 1997 (Philadelphia 76ers)
Iverson became the third rookie in the last decade to lead the league in turnovers as the No. 1 overall choice. After two years at Georgetown, where he became the shortest first overall selection ever, Iverson was picked by the 76ers. Iverson was named Rookie of the Year after averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 2.1 steals in just 22 games with the squad.
Antoine Walker – 292 – 1998 (Boston Celtics)
In the summer, the Celtics drafted swingman Paul Pierce, who will create a dynamic pair with Walker for years to come. Walker had battled with the ball in his debut season under Rick Pitino the year before. Walker was named to the All-Star squad as a reserve, averaging 22.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Despite having the most turnovers in the league, he was featured on the cover of NBA Live 99.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 186, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 186, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 186, (Vancouver Grizzlies)
For years to come, Abdur-Rahim would be a focal point for the Grizzlies. He averaged 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists this season. His career highs in assists, steals, and blocks still stand today. He also averaged 40.4 minutes of playing time that year, so he had plenty of opportunities to flip the ball over. However, because to the shorter season, this turnover total is the lowest.
Jerry Stackhouse – 311 in 2000 (Detroit Pistons)
Stackhouse’s only two All-Star appearances coincided with the two seasons in which he led the league in turnovers. Stackhouse was traded to the Pistons for Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie in the middle of the 1997-1998 season. Stackhouse averaged 23.6 points per game in his second full season.
Jerry Stackhouse – 326 – 2001 (Detroit Pistons)
With a career-high 29.8 points per game, he returned to the All-Star Game a year after his first appearance. He established the Pistons club record with 57 points in a late-season triumph against the Bulls. He only had 4 turnovers in that game, but made up for it against the Heat by having 11 turnovers in one game.
Jason Kidd – 286 in 2002 (New Jersey Nets)
Despite never having more than 7 turnovers in a game, Kidd led the league in turnovers. Kidd had seven turnovers in four games. After being traded for Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman, and Soumaila Samake, it was his first season with the Nets. The Nets improved by 26 games the previous season thanks to Kenyon Martin, but were defeated by the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Steve Francis – 299, 399, 399, 399, 399, 399, 399, (Houston Rockets)
The Rockets’ pair of Francis and Ming gelled so well after obtaining the No. 1 overall choice, which they used on Yao Ming, that both made the All-Star team. The club finished 43-39 and missed the playoffs. His season high in turnovers was eight, but he had far too many games with six or seven turnovers.
Paul Pierce – 303 – 303 – 303 – 303 – 303 – (Boston Celtics)
Pierce made the All-Star squad every season from 2002 through 2006, including leading the league in total points in 2002 and being named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2002 and 2003. However, he does not want the 2003-2004 season to be remembered on his resume. Pierce led the league in turnovers twice, including a game in which he had nine giveaways.
Allen Iverson – 344 – Allen Iverson – 344 – Allen Iverson – 344 (Philadelphia 76ers)
The 76ers were revitalized under new head coach Jim O’Brien, first-round draft selection Andre Iguodala, and All-Star forward Chris Webber. The squad got it back to the playoffs, and Iverson led the league in scoring with 31 points per game and 8 assists per game. Iverson, on the other hand, would end one game with 12 turnovers and another with 11. Iverson scored over 30 points in both games. Iverson came within one turnover of a triple-double on two occasions, but lost out by one turnover each time.
Gilbert Arenas – 297 in 2006 (Washington Wizards)
Arenas’ moniker “Agent 0” was bestowed to him the same year he might have been dubbed “Agent Turnover.” Arenas was fourth among the scoring leaders with 29.3 points per game and 6.1 assists per game. He was chosen to the All-Star team and guided the Wizards to the playoffs. Arenas only had more than six turnovers three times all season, although he had six giveaways in a game ten times.
Dwight Howard – 317 – Dwight Howard – 317 – Dwight Howard – 317 (Orlando Magic)
For the third year in a row, Howard appeared in all 82 games. Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds a game this season, but he had over 20 turnovers. As a result, the Magic’s offense was centered around its star center. In a game against the Bulls, Howard scored a triple-double in points, rebounds, and turnovers, scoring 21 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 turnovers.
Steve Nash – 295 in 2008 (Phoenix Suns)
When it comes to Nash’s talent with the ball, we may take it easy. He once had a 20-assist, 5-turnover game. With 32 points, 12 assists, and 10 turnovers versus New Orleans, he achieved one triple-double in terms of points, rebounds, and turnovers. Nash led the league’s greatest offense as a whole, so he earned a pass here.
Russell Westbrook has 274 points in 2009. (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Westbrook became the first rookie in NBA history to lead the league in assists. Westbrook had a terrific debut season after being picked with the No. 4 overall selection. He was named Rookie of the Year. He was the first rookie to record a triple-double in a season since Chris Paul, and just the third rookie in Sonics/Thunder history. Westbrook had a season average of 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.9 rebounds.
Steve Nash – 295 in 2010 (Phoenix Suns)
Nash has 40 assists and 10 assists in two games played within ten days of one other. Nash turned the ball over every four baskets. Nash had the most turnovers in a game with seven, something he did five times this season. The Suns won 54 games and advanced to the Conference Finals, where they were defeated by the Lakers.
Russell Westbrook – 311 in 2011 (Oklahoma City Thunder)
The Westbrook-Harden decade for turnovers started after two seasons. Four times, Westbrook had eight turnovers in a game, but three of those four occasions he had double-digit assists. With Kevin Durant, Westbrook would develop into one of the most exciting players in the NBA, and OKC would reach the NBA Finals a year later.
255 – John Wall, 2012 (Washington Wizards)
Wall qualified for the Rising Stars Challenge in his second season. He concluded the season with 8.0 assists, but in 66 games, he led the league in turnovers. Because to the lockout, the season was cut short. Despite this, Wall’s turnover rates were low, and he never had more than eight in a game.
James Harden – 295 points in 2013 (Houston Rockets)
Harden led the NBA in turnovers in his first full season with the Rockets. Harden, on the other hand, had a fantastic statistical season. He ranked seventh in the league with 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game. Harden became the team’s sixth player to ever score more than 2,000 points in a season. He scored over 30 points in each of his eight turnover games.
John Wall – 295 in 2014 (Washington Wizards)
Wall agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract deal before the year started. In January, he had his second career triple-double and was named to the All-Star squad. He also won the Slam Dunk Contest, making him the first Wizards player to do it. He guided the Wizards to the playoffs for the first time in six years as a player. Wall had eight mistakes in one game, but only seven in the other seven.
James Harden has 321 points in 2015. (Houston Rockets)
Harden has 18 games with double-digit assists, and five of those games included five or more turnovers. Harden was a scoring machine this season, finishing second to Steph Curry in MVP voting. The Rockets advanced to the Conference Finals, but Harden suffered the worst Game 5 in NBA history. With 13 turnovers and 14 points on 2-of-11 shooting, Harden established a postseason record.
James Harden has 374 points in 2016. (Houston Rockets)
During the season, Harden was not very effective. He concluded March with 457 points, 152 assists, and 102 rebounds, becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1967 to accomplish 450/150/100 in a month. His 374 turnovers surpassed Artis Gilmore’s NBA record of 366 set in 1977-1978, the first season when turnovers were tracked. Harden achieved career highs in points (29), assists (7.5), and rebounds (6.1), becoming the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 29 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds in a season, joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson.
James Harden – 464 points in 2017 (Houston Rockets)
Harden set a single-season record with 464 turnovers. Harden had double-digit turnovers five times in a game. This includes a game with a season-high 12 turnovers. Harden had 15 assists and 29 points in the same 12-turnover game. Harden recorded four triple-doubles this season, with four points, rebounds, turnovers, and triple-doubles.
Russell Westbrook has 381 points in 2018. (Oklahoma City Thunder)
If turnovers are included, Westbrook has two quadruple-doubles. Westbrook had 24 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists, and 10 turnovers in a game against the Bulls. He had 21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, and 10 turnovers in a game against the Rockets. His season highlight had to be a game in which he had 24 points, 24 assists, and three mistakes. Even though Westbrook has the third-most turnovers in a season, you have to take the good with the bad given everything he’s done this season.
James Harden has 387 points this season (Houston Rockets)
He beat Gilmore’s previous turnovers record for the third time. With 387 turnovers, he didn’t set the single-season record, but he did establish the second-most turnovers in a season. During the season, Harden only had one triple-double (points, assists, and turnovers), although he did have nine turnovers in four games and eight in three others.
James Harden – 308 – James Harden – 308 – James Harden – 308 – (Houston Rockets)
Harden’s prolific scoring over the season makes it simple to see why he was the league’s leading turnover maker. Harden was attempting to break Houston’s all-time scoring record, which he finally did. Harden also surpassed Elgin Baylor as the NBA’s all-time leader in 40-point games. Although he had a lot of touches, he only had 308 turnovers, which was a low number compared to previous years.
Russell Westbrook – 312 – Russell Westbrook – 312 – Russell Westbrook – 312 – Russell West (Washington Wizards)
For the fourth time in his career, Westbrook averaged a triple-double season. Seven times in a game, Westbrook had at least eight turnovers. Westbrook had a triple-double five of the seven occasions. With one assist, he came close to missing six times. Three times, Westbrook has 20 assists in a single game. He was prone to making errors now and then.
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