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The Last 40 Turnover Leaders: James Harden And Russell Westbrook Are Turnover Machines

The Last 40 Turnovers Champions: James Harden And Russell Westbrook Are Turnover Machines

When the ball is in your hands, you are expected to perform. Turning the ball over can lead to staggering defeats if it happens too much. That is why teams want a trusted point guard to run the show. Then again, based on the last 40 years of turnover leaders, it doesn’t have to be a guard to lead the league in turning the ball over.

We have seen some players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden entertaining us at the highest level, but with flair comes fire. The explosive nature of these players has led to historic turnover amounts as well. Take a look at the other high turnover amounts from players in the last 40 years.


1981 - Moses Malone - 308 (Houston Rockets)

Malone led the league in rebounds with 14.8 per game and was named to the All-NBA Second Team, as well as the All-Star team. He finished second in the league scoring race with 28.8 points per game, losing to Adrian Dantley. Malone had the ball in his hands a lot this season and was likely double-teamed multiple times which led to multiple turnovers.


1982 - Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons) and Adrian Dantley (Utah Jazz) - 299

In a rare situation, Isiah Thomas and Adrian Dantley tied for the league leader in turnovers. Thomas was the main ball handler of the Pistons during the team’s competitive run in the 1980s. As for Dantley, he averaged over 30 points per game for four straight years, including leading the league two times in scoring.


1983 - Ray Williams - 335 (Kansas City Kings)

Williams was coming off a season that saw him set a Nets record for most points in a game with 52 against the Pistons. In the offseason, the Nets traded him to the Kings for Phil Ford. Williams proceeded to lead the league in turnovers. After one season, he was traded back to the New York Knicks for Billy Knight and an amount of cash.


1984 - Jeff Ruland - 342 (Washington Bullets)

In the 1983-1984 season, Ruland had one of the best seasons of his career. He was third in the NBA in rebounds and fifth in shooting from the floor on his way to averaging 22 points and 4 assists per game. The Bullets made the playoffs before losing to the Celtics. In the series, Ruland averaged 24 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and shot 52% from the field.


1985 - Ralph Sampson 326 (Houston Rockets)

The Rockets improved by 19 games and made the playoffs for the first time in three years. Sampson had the best individual season of his career with 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds. It earned him a berth on the All-NBA Second Team, as both Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon made the All-Star Game where he won the MVP. During the regular season, Sampson became the first player in NBA history to record at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals since steals became a stat.


1986 - Charles Barkley - 350 (Philadelphia 76ers)

Barkley led the league in turnovers in just his second full season in the league. It was also a massive leap in his overall game as Barkley led the team in rebounds and was the second-leading scorer. As a whole, Barkley averaged 20.0 points and 12.8 rebounds on route to being named Second-Team All-NBA. But, the team lost to the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.


1987 - Ron Harper - 345 (Cleveland Cavaliers)

New to the league, Harper was taken with the No. 8 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He broke 30 points in just his sixth overall game. He scored a season-high 40 points later in the season. He started all 82 games and placed second in the Rookie of the Year Award. With that said, he made plenty of rookie mistakes by leading the league in turnovers.


1988 - Karl Malone - 325 - (Utah Jazz)

The foundation of John Stockton and Malone on offense was enough for the Jazz to be a competitive team in the Western Conference. The Jazz won 47 games and made the playoffs. While Stockton was the lead showman, you would have expected him to lead the league, but it was instead his teammate that made too many miscues. Then again, Malone was likely getting double-teamed most nights as he boasted 27.1 points per game. At the end of the season, Malone was signed to a 10-year contract worth $18 million.


1989 - Kevin Johnson - 322 (Phoenix Suns)

In his first full season with the Suns, Johnson grew into an elite player. Johnson averaged 20.4 points, 12.2 assists, shot 50.5% from the field, and 88.2% from the free-throw line. He joined MagicJohnson and Isiah Thomas as the only players in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 12 assists in a season. It was the first of three seasons doing this, joining Oscar Robertson and Thomas as the only players to average 20 and 10 for three straight years.


1990 - Isiah Thomas - 322 (Detroit Pistons)

Not too many people remember Thomas leading the league in turnovers this year because they were too busy looking at his Finals MVP. The Pistons won the No. 1 seed and then grinded through a tough Chicago Bulls team in seven games in the Conference Finals. In the NBA Finals, the Pistons repeated as champions by defeating Clyde Drexler’s Trail Blazers.


1991 - Magic Johnson - 314 (Los Angeles Lakers)

All the years’ Johnson led the league in assists, he only led the league in turnovers once. This time, it was when Johnson won his third MVP award as he played mostly without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You could blame his turnover woes on playing under Mike Dunleavy for the first time, but he still performed well with 19.4 points, 12.5 assists, and 7.0 rebounds. The Lakers made the NBA Finals before losing to the Bulls in five games.


1992 - John Stockton - 286 (Utah Jazz)

Like Johnson, Stockton was so masterful that he only led the league in turnovers once in his career. Stockton, paired with Malone, made the best dynamic duo in the league. Malone eventually finished second in his career in points, while Stockton is the all-time leader in assists.


1993 - Shaquille O’Neal - 307 (Orlando Magic)

In the 1992 NBA Draft, Shaq was taken with the No. 1 overall pick. O’Neal averaged 23.4 points on 56.2% shooting, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks. He was named the Rookie of the Year and the first rookie to be voted an All-Star since Michael Jordan in 1985. The Magic won 20 more games than the previous year thanks to their big man who needed at least three people guarding him sometimes.


1994 - Jim Jackson - 334 (Dallas Mavericks)

Jackson appeared in only 28 games his rookie season. He followed that by starting 82 games where he averaged 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists in 37.4 minutes per game. The trio of Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd, and Jackson formed the “Three Js.” The cool nickname didn’t help with his decision making though.


1995 - Glen Robinson - 313 (Milwaukee Bucks)

Robinson followed Shaq’s footsteps by leading the league in turnovers his rookie season. Robinson was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in 1994. Before the season, Robinson signed a rookie-record, 10-year, $68 million deal that still stands as the richest rookie contract. Robinson led all rookies with 21.9 points per game but finished behind Grant Hill and Jason Kidd in the Rookie of the Year voting.


1996 - Jason Kidd - 326 (Dallas Mavericks)

Kidd was taken behind Robinson in the 1994 draft and then followed him in leading the league in turnovers. Although, Kidd was voted a starter in the 1996 All-Star Game, his tenure in Dallas was more remembered for his issues with coaches, which led to him being traded into his third season.


1997 - Allen Iverson - 337 (Philadelphia 76ers)

Iverson became the third rookie and No. 1 overall pick of the decade to lead the league in turnovers. Iverson was drafted by the 76ers after two years at Georgetown, where he became the shortest first overall pick ever. Iverson won the Rookie of the Year averaging 23.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 2.1 steals, but the team only won 22 games.


1998 - Antoine Walker - 292 (Boston Celtics)

The Celtics drafted swingman Paul Pierce in the offseason, which formed a talented duo with Walker for years to come. The year before, Walker struggled with the ball in his first season with Rick Pitino. Walker made the All-Star team as a reserve where he averaged 22.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. Despite leading the league in turnovers, he made the cover of NBA Live 99.


1999 - Shareef Abdur-Rahim - 186 (Vancouver Grizzlies)

Abdur-Rahim was a centerpiece of the Grizzlies for years to come. During this season, he averaged 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. His assists steal, and blocks were career-high, which remain the most today. It was also the same year he averaged 40.4 minutes of playing time, so he had plenty of time to turn the ball over. However, this turnover total is the lowest amount because of the shortened season.


2000 - Jerry Stackhouse - 311 (Detroit Pistons)

It figures that the only two seasons Stackhouse made the All-Star team were the two seasons he led the league in turnovers. Stackhouse was dealt midway to the Pistons midway through the 1997-1998 season for Theo Ratliff and Aaron McKie. By his second full season, Stackhouse averaged 23.6 points per game.


2001 - Jerry Stackhouse - 326 (Detroit Pistons)

A year after his first All-Star appearance, he made it back to the All-Star Game with a career-high 29.8 points per game. In a late-season win over the Bulls, he set the Pistons franchise record with 57 points. He only had 4 turnovers in that game but made up for it when he finished with 11 turnovers in one game against the Heat.


2002 - Jason Kidd - 286 (New Jersey Nets)

Kidd led the league in turnovers despite never finishing with more than 7 turnovers in a game. Kidd finished four games with 7 turnovers. It was his first season with the Nets after he was traded for Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman, and Soumaila Samake. Along with Kenyon Martin, the Nets improved by 26 games the previous season but lost in the NBA Finals to the Lakers.


2003 - Steve Francis - 299 (Houston Rockets)

After landing the No. 1 overall pick, used on Yao Ming, the Rockets duo of Francis and Ming gelled so well that both made the All-Star team. The team went 43-39 but missed out on the playoffs. His season-high for turnovers was 8, but he had way too many games with 6 or 7 turnovers for the game.


2004 - Paul Pierce - 303 (Boston Celtics)

From 2002 to 2006, Pierce made the All-Star team every season, which included leading the league in total points in 2002, as well as making All-NBA Third Team in 2002 and 2003. However, the 2003-2004 season was not one that he wants to remember on his resume. Pierce led the league in turnovers, including recording 9 turnovers in a game two times.


2005 - Allen Iverson - 344 (Philadelphia 76ers)

With new head coach Jim O’Brien, first-round draft pick Andre Iguodala, and All-Star forward Chris Webber, the 76ers were rejuvenated. The team made it back to the postseason, while Iverson won the scoring title with 31 points per game, as well as 8 assists per game. However, Iverson would finish one game with 12 turnovers, and another with 11 in a game. In both games, Iverson scored over 30 points. On two separate occasions, Iverson nearly recorded a points-assists-turnovers triple-double but missed it by one turnover.


2006 - Gilbert Arenas - 297 (Washington Wizards)

The year that Arenas was given the nickname “Agent 0” was the same year he could have been “Agent Turnover.” With that said, Arenas ranked fourth among the scoring leaders with 29.3, while averaging 6.1 assists. He was named an All-Star and led the Wizards to the playoffs. Arenas had more than 6 turnovers just three times but had 6 turnovers in a game 10 times during the season.


2007 - Dwight Howard - 317 (Orlando Magic)

Howard played in all 82 games for the third consecutive season. Howard averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds but had over turnovers for the season. With that said, the Magic’s offense went directly through their star center. Howard had a triple-double of points-rebounds-turnovers in a game against the Bulls, where he recorded 21 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 turnovers.


2008 - Steve Nash - 295 (Phoenix Suns)

Nash once had a 20-assists, 5-turnover game, so we can slow down when it comes down to Nash’s ability with the ball. He had one triple-double of points, rebounds, and turnovers with 32 points, 12 assists, and 10 turnovers against New Orleans. As a whole, Nash led the best offense in the league, so he got a free pass here.


2009 - Russell Westbrook - 274 (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Westbrook became the last rookie to lead the league in assists. After being selected with the No. 4 overall pick, Westbrook enjoyed a successful rookie season that landed him the Rookie of the Year. He was the first rookie since Chris Paul to record a triple-double in a season, as well as the third rookie in Sonics/Thunder history. Westbrook averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds for the season.


2010 - Steve Nash - 295 (Phoenix Suns)

In a matter of two games within 10 days of each other, Nash recorded 40 assists and 10 assists. For every four baskets, Nash turned the ball over. Nash’s highest amount for turnovers in a game was 7, which he recorded five times in the season. The Suns won 54 games and made the Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers in the Conference Finals.


2011 - Russell Westbrook - 311 (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Outside of two seasons, the Westbrook-Harden decade for turnovers began. Westbrook recorded 8 turnovers in a game four times, but in three of those four games he recorded double-digit assists. Westbrook would blossom into one of the most entertaining players with Kevin Durant as OKC would eventually make the NBA Finals one year later.


2012 - John Wall - 255 (Washington Wizards)

Wall’s second season saw him make the Rising Stars Challenge. He finished the season with 8.0 assists but led the league in turnovers in 66 games. The season was cut short due to the lockout. Still, Wall’s turnover rates were low, where he never finished with more than 8 in a game.


2013 - James Harden - 295 (Houston Rockets)

In his first full season with the Rockets, Harden led the league in turnovers. Harden had a great statistical season though. He averaged 25.9 points, which was fifth in the league, as well as 5.8 assists, and 4.9 rebounds. Harden became the fifth player in team history to ever score over 2,000 points in a season. In each of his 8 turnover games, he finished with over 30 points.


2014 - John Wall - 295 (Washington Wizards)

Before the year began, Wall signed a five-year $80 million extension. He recorded his second career triple-double in January and then made the All-Star team. He also became the first Wizards player to win the Slam Dunk Contest. As a player, he led the Wizards to the postseason for the first time in six years. Wall had 8 turnovers in a game one time but had 7 in a game seven times.


2015 - James Harden - 321 (Houston Rockets)

Harden finished with 18 double-digit assists games and he finished with 5 or more turnovers in five of those games. Harden was a scoring machine this season and finished second in the MVP voting to Steph Curry. The Rockets made the Conference Finals, but Harden had the most forgettable Game 5 ever. Harden set a playoff record with 13 turnovers and 14 points on 2-of-11 shooting.


2016 - James Harden - 374 (Houston Rockets)

Harden did not do a lot of good during the season. He finished March with 457 points, 152 assists, and 102 rebounds to become the first player to record 450/150/100 in a month since Oscar Robertson in 1967. His 374 turnovers broke Artis Gilmore’s NBA record of 366 set in 1977-1978, which was the first season that turnovers became a recorded statistic. Harden set career marks in points (29), assists (7.5), and rebounds (6.1) which joined LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Oscar Robertson to average at least 29 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds in a season.


2017 - James Harden - 464 (Houston Rockets)

Harden’s 464 turnovers are a single-season record. Five times Harden recorded double-digit turnovers in a game. That included a season-high 12 turnovers in a game. In that same 12-turnover game, Harden had 15 assists and 29 points. Harden had four points-rebounds-turnovers-triple-doubles in the season.


2018 - Russell Westbrook - 381 (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Westbrook had two quadruple-doubles if you count turnovers as a category. In a game against the Bulls, Westbrook recorded 24 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists, and 10 turnovers. In a game against the Rockets, he recorded 21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, and 10 turnovers. His season highlight had to be when he once recorded 24 points and 24 assists and 3 turnovers in a game. Given what Westbrook did this season, you have to take the good with the bad, even though his total is the third most turnovers in a season.


2019 - James Harden - 387 (Houston Rockets)

For the third time, he broke an old turnovers record set by Gilmore. He didn’t set the single-season record, but he secured the second-most turnovers in a season with his 387. Harden recorded only one triple-double points-assists-turnovers during the season, but he recorded 9 turnovers in a game four times and then 8 three other times.


2020 - James Harden - 308 (Houston Rockets)

The amount of scoring that Harden displayed during the season makes it easy to figure out that he led the league in turnovers. Harden was chasing down the all-time scoring mark in Houston, which he eventually clipped. Harden also passed Elgin Baylor for the most 40-point games in NBA history. A lot of shots came with a lot of touches, but his 308 turnovers were modest compared to the year’s past.


2021 - Russell Westbrook - 312 (Washington Wizards)

For the fourth time in his career, Westbrook finished a season averaging a triple-double. Westbrook finished with at least 8 turnovers seven times in a game. Five of the seven times, Westbrook recorded a triple-double. He nearly missed six times with 1 assist. Westbrook finished with 20 assists in a game three times. He was prone to make a mistake now and again. 

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