The Pistons lost to the Los Angeles Lakers last night by 12 points. They were outscored at the line by 21 points, getting to the line 24 fewer times than the Lakers. The Pistons shot from the field 21 more times than the Lakers did, hitting 4 more shots (one more triple). The Pistons lost the game at the free throw line.
The free throw is almost as old as the game of basketball. For the most part, it is shot in relatively the same motion as any other shot on the court. Stan Van Gundy used this offseason to surround Andre Drummond with shooters. So why are the Pistons shooting the worst percentage from the free throw line in their entire history?
First thought would be Drummond. And a lot of that is correct. He is averaging 7.2 free throw attempts per game, nearly three more per game than last year. And it looks encouraging to see that he is shooting them better this year than he did last year, from 38.9-percent up to 40.3-percent. But that number has been on the decline recently.
Drummond gave us high hopes when he started off the season hitting 6-of-10 free throw attempts in the first game of the season. He had us praising Dave Hopla, the shooting coach the Pistons hired this offseason who's first mission was to fix Dre's free throws, after hitting 8-for-11 in the second game of the season including six in a row. He made 14 free throws on 21 attempts in the first two games.
But in the last eight games, he has made 15 free throws on 51 attempts. That is 66.7-percent in the first two games to 29.4-percent over the last eight. It seemed to start going down hill after going 4-for-10 in the third game of the season. As if he has lost his confidence. As if it is a mental thing more than a mechanical thing. But it's not like anyone on here who's profession deals with hypnotism has said that before.
The sad thing though is that it is not just Drummond.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris are probably the only bright spots at the free throw line. KCP has increased his per game attempts (likely due to his large increase in minutes). Prior to this year he averaged 71.7-percent from the line. This year, he is averaging 85.2-percent. He's only missed four of his 27 attempts on the year.
Morris has also increased his attempts per game and that is almost assuredly due to his increase in minutes (12 more than any other year) per game and higher usage rate. He is shooting four percentage points above his career average while attempting more than double his previous career high in attempts.
After that, it's pretty bleak. Reggie Jackson is getting to the line over five times a game, and he's making 80.4-percent of them. But that is actually the second lowest average of his career and nearly five percentage points below his career average. Ersan Ilyasova is shooting nearly seven percentage points better than he did last year, but that is still nearly six percentage points lower than his career average.
Aron Baynes had a bad rookie year from the line, shooting 58.3-percent. The following year it was 90.5-percent but on half the attempts. He followed that year with 86.5-percent but on three times the attempts. This year he is shooting 70-percent on one attempt per game.
Stanley Johnson is a rookie, but the free throw line is the same. In college he shot 74.2-percent from the line and was getting there 4.7 time per game. Obviously his usage rate is lower therefore his attempts have gone down. However, the free throw line has not changed. That is what makes his 60-percent from the line rather disappointing.
Spencer Dinwiddie has only played in two games. However, he gotten to the line seven times. Last year he got to the line once a game, good for 34 attempts. He only missed three of them for a 91.2-percent free throw percentage. He's already missed three this year, making his free throw percentage 57.1-percent. Obviously, very small sample size.
Possibly the most concerning is Anthony Tolliver. Tolly, prior to this year, had a career free throw percentage of 77.8-percent. Again, knowing sample size is small, Tolliver has only made three of his seven free throw attempts, which yields a 42.9-percentage rate.
Again, there are a lot of small sample sizes in there, including the Pistons having only played 10 games. But that is also the problem, in the small sample size there is a large sample of free throws. The Pistons are ninth in the league in free throw attempts, but they are the worst in percentage. Drummond accounts for 29-percent of the Pistons attempted free throws. The next closest is Jackson at 20.6-percent followed by Morris at 18.2-percent. Our best free throw shooter, KCP, only accounts for 10.9-percent. Something is wrong here.
This could all be due to tired legs. Stan Van Gundy reportedly put the players through a grueling training camp. They started the season with a back-to-back against the Atlanta Hawks and then the Utah Jazz. They just ended a six game west coast road trip. After going 5-1 over their first six, they have lost four straight, two of those to teams who had previously won a combined two games (1-7 for each team).
But there's no time for tired legs. The Pistons play again Tuesday night against the Central Division, Eastern Conference Leading Cleveland Cavaliers.