Friday, January 10, 2014

The masters of getting to the free-throw line

Here's a chart of the 25 players who are getting to the free throw line the most this season (as measured by FTA / 36 minutes), and how they're doing once they get there.

(Having trouble seeing the chart? Click here.)
Some takeaways:

  • Perhaps nothing illustrates the growth on offense of DeMarcus Cousins better than this: in each of his first three seasons in the NBA, Cousins averaged between 6 and 7 FTA / 36 minutes. This year, he's the only qualified player in the NBA averaging over 10 FTA / 36. He's hitting 71% right now, right in line with his career average. If he can pull that up to 75% or higher... good golly, how do you stop him?
  • LOL Dwight Howard. Let's start with the good news: he still gets to the charity stripe a ton, and he's hitting free throws at a higher rate than in either of his past two seasons. So that's nice. On the other hand, he's missed 154 FTA so far. No one else on this chart has missed more than 86 (Blake Griffin). Dwight has missed 25 more FTA than Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kevin Love combined, and that trio has taken 550 more total attempts than Howard.
  • Speaking of Durant, he's one made 3P and four FT away from shooting 50% 2P / 40% 3P / 90% FT. Amazingly, each of those percentages is actually down from last season.
  • LeBron James started the season red-hot (by his standards) from the stripe, shooting almost 80% through the end of November. Since then, however, he's been just a shade over 70%. His career average is 75%.
  • Tony Wroten? Tony Wroten! Philly has to be delighted that he (and his backcourt mate Michael Carter-Williams) are able to get to the line at will, especially when both are still under 21 and barely understand NBA offense. Unfortunately both of them are among the five worst on this chart at hitting their freebies. By the way, Wroten hit 72% last season in Memphis, but his 58% mark this year is exactly in line with what he shot in his lone college season, so I'm going to consider last year the outlier until further notice.
  • Check out the teams that have a pair of players on this list, and how they rank in offensive efficiency. The Rockets (with Harden and Dwight) are 4th in the NBA in points per 100 possessions. The Wolves (Love and Kevin Martin) are 5th, the Clips (Blake and Chris Paul) are 7th, the Pelicans (Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans) are 8th, and the Suns (Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe) are 10th. Even the less-heralded Hawks (Jeff Teague and the ever-professional Paul Millsap) are 13th. That's not a coincidence - if you can consistently run two-man actions in the half-court that get you free points, you're well on your way to a powerful offense.
  • And finally, I can't not mention Swaggy P. Nick Young is getting to the line on a career-best 32% of his FG attempts, which is propelling him to a career mark in true shooting percentage as well. I understand the numerous criticisms of Mike D'Antoni - many of which are valid - but he's demonstrating again an amazing ability to put limited role players in a position to succeed on offense.


  1. way too many links in the body of the article

    1. The only links are to full player pages, which is also what ESPN and SI (among others) do on NBA articles. My goal with the links isn't to distract from the post but add some context.