Over the last few seasons, the Pistons have gradually built up an identity. They've become known as a fearsome interior team, especially in terms of rebounding, and have led the league in O-boards the last two seasons, as well as being top 5 in total rebounds over both seasons. However, another stereotype has arisen, and it is not good; Detroit is a bad free throw shooting team.
|Season||Team FT %||League Rank|
As we can see, Detroit has been bad at shooting free throws for the past half decade, with an aberration in 2011-2012. The question is, why is Detroit so bad at shooting foul shots? Is it distribution of foul shots? Personnel? A vengeful former usher continuously opening the door mid shot? Let's examine what the cause may be for Detroit's troubles this season.
The Pistons have used 20 players this season, most of which are respectable free throw shooters. Let's take a look at the following table and see the career free throw numbers of all 20 players Detroit has used this season (including this season).
|Player||Career FT %|
|John Lucas III||.768|
As we can see, there are plenty of historically good free throw shooters who have suited up for Detroit this season, but how do their career averages compare to their 2014/15 season with Detroit?
|Player (games played)||FT% (2014/15 w/Detroit)||FT% (career)||FTA (per game 2014/15 w/Detroit)||FTA (per game career)|
|Lucas III (21)||1.000||.768||0.2||0.4|
And here is the free throw rates (number of FT attempts vs. FG attempts).
|Player||Free Throw Rate|
|John Lucas III||.048|
But Ben, what does this data tell us? Well, good denizens of DBB, this shows how frequently a player has gotten to the line this season in relation to their career. What we've found, is that our high volume free throw shooters appear to be the weaker marksman from the line, such as Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, and Greg Monroe. We can quantify this by showing how many free throws a player has taken in relation to the team.
The free throw rates tell us who is being aggressive in their time on the court. It's probably best to ignore small sample size players like Joel Anthony, but the rest is still pretty damning. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe both have high free throw rates, but for different reasons. Drummond's rate is likely due to Hack-a-Dre while Monroe is simply good at drawing contact. This is also what made D.J. Augustin valuable, as his high free throw rate led to lots of easy points, likewise with Jodie Meeks. Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson could have higher rates, but the big problem is KCP. His rate indicates that he spends a lot of time outside hoisting jumpers as opposed to taking it inside. Although, to be fair, he did get a lot of non-calls this season.
For the 2014-15 season, the Pistons attempted 1,838 free throws, good for 17th in the league, so they were roughly an average team at getting to the stripe. However, they only converted 1,292 free throws, which is 26th in the league, which shows that while Detroit is decent at getting to the line, they can't convert, and as such are leaving free points at the line.
On average, Detroit missed 6.6 free throws per game, while only allowing an average of one point more than their opponents per game, perhaps explaining why Detroit lost so many close games this season.
Let's see who took the most free throws this past season:
|Player||FTA||% of team's FTA|
|John Lucas III||5||0.3%|
There is the incriminating evidence. The failed big three of Drummond, Monroe and Smith combined for a whopping 44.2 percent of the team's free throws for the season, and converted at a rate of 54.9 percent (446-812).
In fairness to Monroe, he shot his free throws at a career best rate of 75%, which really highlights how tragically bad the other two were. Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin were the next two most frequent foul shooters, but that doesn't mean much because Meeks only played 60 games and Augustin 54. In fact, the only two Pistons to play all 82 games, Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, were bad free throw shooters who dragged down the team. You cannot have a player take 20 percent of your free throws and only convert them at a 39 percent clip. In fairness, KCP isn't a bad free throw shooter historically, but when your starting lineup consists of Drummond and Greg Monroe, you can't have your starting 2-guard shoot under 70 percent from the line, too.
Just one last quick point, to highlight how poor KCP was from the foul line, here are the other guards with a sub 70 free throw percentage, who qualify for league leaders in minutes per game.
Importantly, this list is guards with a sub-70 free throw percentage who qualify for minutes per game league leaders, as the only ones on this list who qualify for FT% are Carter-Williams and Evans. What offers a shimmer of hope, though, is that KCP has a decent long ball % (tied for 4th behind McCollum, Bazemore and Iguodala), and a decent TS% (one of only 7 on this list above .500). The point is, I think it's reasonable to expect KCP to revert back to a decent percentage next season, as, based on eye-tests, he appears to be a better shooter than most on this list.
What we can garner from this analysis is that generally our worst free throw shooters are the players getting the most attempts, and hence the team percentage is more likely to gravitate towards those players' percentages as opposed to a more balanced outcome. It appears our better shooters need to do a better job of attacking and drawing free throws. Two players good at this were D.J. Augustin and Brandon Jennings, but one was traded and the other missed half the season, so the likes of Reggie Jackson and KCP need to be more aggressive in drawing contact.
Now your thoughts, DBB.