The value of the FT%
I was watching one of our recent wins, and near the end of the game, it was a contest of fouls and free-throws. It got me thinking how under-valued FT% is as an offensive stat. I was watching Jose go to the line and make shots, like he usually does and it got me thinking. FT% seems to remain pretty constant compared to other offensive numbers. A guy can have streaky field goal shooting, or be in a slump, but the free-throws seem to be less effected. I feel way better seeing a guy with an 80%+ FT% getting fouled, than I do watching him try and make a contested, or even open shot with the game on the line. This particular game was sealed because Jose kept getting the ball when they went to foul. We always look for, and give praise to a player who can make the game winning field goal when the shot is needed and the pressure is on, but I rarely considered that in the right situation, having a guy, or couple of guys with exceptional FT% can be the same thing. FT% seems to get looked at as a nice extra to the more glamorous stats, but in crunch time, a 90% guy at the line is as important for a win as having that big time shot maker. How do you guys see it? Is a high FT% guy a nice thing to have, or key? Does having 90%+ FT need to be considered more, when discussing a guy like Jose's overall offensive value?
A high FT% is nice, but not as good as just getting to the line itself.
From a pure numbers perspective (and this is rounded a touch for ease). 1.9 FTs = 1 possession. Average pts per possession = 1.1 pts. So for a player to have even 'average' efficiency from the line they should shoot approx 60%.
When we consider average ft% is around 75%, then we can see that just getting to the line tends to be more efficient than most forms of scoring
(and that doesn't include the harder to quantify, but benificial idea of putting opposing players in foul trouble and therefore potentially taking them out of the game/half and/or putting the opposing team over the foul limit meaning your team gets even more easy possessions.)
Ofcourse its nicer to have a player at the line who shoots a higher % than a lower % as that means higher efficiency.
However that has to be weighed against the number of shots a guy takes in general. So if you have a player taking 6 FTs a game, but needs to take 20 shots to get to the line that often, while shooting 40%. Getting to the line that often isn't making up for his wasted possessions along the way. But those cases are rather rare in the league (although not in Toronto)
Its one of the reasons players like Shaq and Dwight are so great. That despite their poor ft%, they were only marginally less than average efficiency shots on a per possession basis, and the opposition would rather give them close to average efficiency (while sacrificing their players and team to foul trouble) because Shaq's and Dwight's fg% efficiency was off the charts.
In conclusion, FTs are good!
I guess my point wasnt so much the value of the % in a typical game situation, but in the sort of game where there's a minute or two left, and a small lead to protect. In the game the other day, they needed to foul someone who would miss the odd free throw in order to have a chance, they fouled Jose for the most part. In that situation, your "go to guy" becomes the guy(s) with the best FT%, rather than the ability to shoot/dunk etc. It was in that situation that I saw what's normally a seconday stat become critical to the win.