“He’s really good at getting to the line.” It’s spoken as a great compliment to a player and it makes sense. To a certain degree. Getting to the FT line generally equates to putting enough pressure on the defense that they’re forced to foul you. You always hear coaches and players setting targets about getting to the stripe, and speaking to how it’s the mark of maturity. I’ve always found this stat a little deceiving because it doesn’t reflect your ability to score, and can mask scoring inefficiency by pumping up PPG.
Looking at this stat without considering fourth quarter production is also an issue, because it doesn’t account for refs swallowing the whistle when the game gets tight, especially on the road. There is of course a stat that combines FT shooting, scoring, and three-point shooting into one metric, and that’s TS%. Before you even follow that link and look for where the Raptors players stand, let me tell you that you won’t find Andrea Bargnani or DeMar DeRozan as the top four Raptors players. In fact, the first of those two doesn’t appear till position #158 in the list.
If we look at FTA/36, the numbers look a little more respectable (DeRozan’s FTA/36 was a career-high 5.4 last season, and the same was true for Bargnani’s 6.0). The aforementioned issues of this stat, and the rather spanning formula of the TS% (
PTS / (2 * (FGA + 0.44 * FTA))) leave something to be desired, so let’s fall back to the stat that doesn’t quite get enough glory: FTA/FGM. In other words, it asks the question of how many FTs does a player take for every FG he makes? For the Raptors, the order is:
So, even though Bargnani is ahead in FTAs made, DeRozan has an edge in terms of rate. Looking at this for the whole NBA and considering 1000+ point scorers to filter out the dross, the top dogs are:
Dwight Howard 1.375 James Harden 1.194 John Wall 1.06 Kevin Love 0.97 Paul Pierce 0.873 DeMar DeRozan 0.868 Blake Griffin 0.834
What? DeRozan? Alright! A Raptor in the top ten of a stat. Turns out DeRozan’s getting to the line thingy is actually on par with the NBA’s top talents, now the question is can he scale that by upping his field goal percentage from 42.2% to something in the 45-47% range. As a reference, Harden is at 49.1% and Pierce is at 44.3%. Considering he shot 46.7% the year before, you’d think his performance this season is a bit of a low, so if he can get his mid-range shooting stroke back to second-year levels, he should be OK. The defense though, is another matter.