We’re now on to Day Four of the five stats that to be keeping track of throughout the year that will tell the story of how the Spurs season plays out. To list them again, they are: three-point attempts and percentage, free throw attempts, passes per game, turnovers, and defensive rating. So far, we’ve hit three-pointers, passes per game and turnovers. Today’s stat to watch is...
Free Throw Attempts
Similar to how baseball has become about two true outcomes, strikeouts and home runs, basketball has become about getting to the rim, shooting threes, and getting to the free throw line. The reason getting to the free throw line is some important is because it’s the easiest way for a player to score — you know, given the whole “no defenders in the player’s way” thing. Of the 34 qualified players to shoot at least 4 free throws per game last season, only seven averaged less than 20 points per game. On the other end, of the 31 qualified players to average 20-plus ppg, only four shot less than 4 free throws per game. While this can be seen as a result of these players having the ball in their hands a lot, making it a point to get free throw attempts helps increase a player’s scoring average.
Last season, the Spurs had the ninth best player at getting to the line on their roster: DeMar DeRozan. His 7.2freet throw attempts per game was four more than the next player on the Spurs, Derrick White. With DeRozan being traded to the Chicago Bulls, the task of drawing fouls will now fall on the shoulders of Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, and the aforementioned Derrick White — and that’s no easy task considering they lack the “benefit of the doubt” that star players tend to get from officials. It’s also likely that Jakob Poeltl will be shooting more free throws this year, so hopefully he can shoot better than the 58.3% he shot after taking over the starting center position last season.
Not that too much stock should be taken in the preseason, but in their five games, the Spurs attempted an average of 17.8 per game, which was down from the 22 they averaged last regular season and would have been good for dead last in the league by a whole shot last season.
Again, it’s just the preseason, and attempts are down across the league — this could be related to the new foul rule, AKA the Trae Young/James Harden rule, which dissuades from taking awkward angles to create contact — but the attempts DeRozan took with him need to be supplemented somehow. Having their main playmakers get to the line more often will definitely help. Not to mention the fact that getting to the line will help the last stat to keep an eye on. So go ahead and bookmark this page to keep tabs on this number all year.