Nobody in the NBA has mastered this art as well as Harden, who has led the league in free throws attempted in five of the past six seasons, averaging more than 10 per game.
He has a deep bag of tricks to earn opportunities at the most efficient shot in the game — Harden hits free throws at an 85.3 percent clip for his career — but he isn't exactly eager to publicly discuss his tactics.
"I just play. Fouls come," Harden says, keeping a straight face. "I don't really come into the game trying to draw fouls. I just play the game."
"The guy is really, really a smart guy. He's really clever. You can tell he practices at knowing what the defense is allowed to do and not allowed to do and where his defender is, because he seems to get the defender in a compromising position."
"It's like he's got the plague, and you don't want to touch him. That's how we've got to treat him."
He's dominant as a driver, an elite ballhandler and a crafty finisher. His step-back 3 has become his signature move. But the first thing opponents discuss when preparing for Harden is keeping him off the free throw line.
"He just has a way of throwing the ball out there, making guys think they can go get it," says Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George.
"It's like if a cookie's sitting right there, you want to go get it, but you're not going to get it every time," Temple says. "It's like the commercial with the guy with the fishing rod — you're not quick enough to get the dollar at the end."
Opponents are well aware of this, but it's often too tempting to resist going for the steal, no matter how many times they see Harden get the and-1 against reaching defenders.
"Anytime you scout James Harden — as well as Lou Williams — the whole talk is about showing your hands, Almost putting your hands back. Then the problem is, how do you guard him then?"