[Washington, DC Ward 6 Anacostia Rec Center - photo: K. Weidie]
A free-throw, the most efficient shot in basketball. But the clear irony is that the easiest way to get buckets, son (shout out to Oleksiy Pecherov, who is tearing it up in the Ukrainian Superleague), is often the most ignored difference-maker in games, unless they come at the very end. Then everyone knows the implications, and everyone is watching. It can get pretty lonely at the free-throw line in one’s thoughts.
In a sport where so many flowing events occur at once, instances where observers can focus on one man with the ball are relatively nonexistent. A solo fast-break is one (imagine Dwyane Wade in the passing lane), but even he must watch his back for a futilely hustling defender. Free-throws are another instance. On the court, nothing else is happening, aside the mental and physical jostling along the lane’s hash marks. White noise ready to rebound. All basketball-curious eyes are on a single, methodical routine. The line can be even more of an island when it’s a technical free-throw.
In 2010-11, 11 out of 30 NBA teams attempted 2000 or more free-throws, including the likes of Chicago, Oklahoma City, Miami and Orlando. The cumulative winning percentage of those eleven teams was 0.542. Ten out of 30 teams attempted 1900 or less free-throws, including the likes of Golden State, Detroit and New Jersey. The cumulative winning percentage of those ten teams was 0.508. There are, of course, exceptions. The 19-win Cleveland Cavaliers attempted the eighth most free-throws in the NBA with 2,075. The 57-win, World Champion Dallas Mavericks finished 27th in attempts with 1850. The Washington Wizards finished one attempt above the league average with 1,999, tied with the Charlotte Bobcats for 12th most in the NBA.
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