NBA Fantasy: Predicting the Top 3 in Free-Throw Percentage For the 2019-20 Season
One of the funniest moments in NBA History has to be the start of the 2008-2009 season when the Phoenix Suns faced off against the San Antonio Spurs. You may not remember this game off the top of your head, but perhaps you remember Spurs coach Gregg Popovich calling for a foul on Shaquille O’Neal in the first five seconds of the game.
Shaq won the tip-off and immediately was fouled by Michael Finley. A Bewildered Shaq eventually locked eyes with Popovich, who had a smile from ear-to-ear and gave the big man two thumbs up.
The two were somewhat feuding with each other over Popovich’s decision to “hack-a-Shaq” while his team was already up 10 points in the previous year's playoff matchup. Shaq referred to the strategy as cowardly.
As dominant as Shaq was on the court, his Achilles’ heel was free-throw shooting. Teams often took advantage of that fact, and would foul him at higher rates than they would other players. As we dive into fantasy basketball, free throw percentage can be your teams Achilles’ heel too, if you don’t know what to look for.
Top-3 in Free Throw Percentage Last Season:
Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon, who recently was inducted into the 50/40/90 club, led the way last season with a whopping .928% from the line. Out of 152 attempts, he only missed 11!
Stephen Curry. Curry comes in second on the year with .916%. He’s a career .902% free throw shooter and has lead the league four different times. What makes this even more impressive is that Curry attempted 287 shots from the line, which was actually his lowest number of total attempts in the past seven seasons.
Damian Lillard. Rounding out the top-3 is Lillard at .912%. Lillard now has back-to-back seasons above .900%, all while taking more than 500 attempts from the line.
When drafting players, percentages are key. Take a guy like James Harden, last season he attempted a league high 858 free throws. He shot .879%, which isn’t bad at all, especially considering the high volume at which Harden gets to the line. Yet even still, he didn’t crack the top-10.
Winning the free throw percentage category in head-to-head matchups can be tricky, and they are usually close. League average last season was .766%. That should be a good mark when drafting to compare the player you are targeting with what the league normally does.
Predicting the Top-3 for the upcoming season:
Stephen Curry. No surprise here, right? Curry is one of the greatest shooters of all time. Without Kevin Durant putting up shots, and with Klay Thompson sidelined for the majority of the season, Curry is going to go into terminator mode this season and remind people why the Warriors have been so dominant for the past half-decade.
Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari came in 4th place last season, and 4th again in the 2016-2017 season. The season in-between you ask? He shot .931% in the 21 games he played, which would have led the league if he was eligible and kept that pace up the entire season. Gallinari is in a new situation playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and will need to be the go-to scoring option if they keep him around.
J.J. Redick. Redick has flirted with .900% his entire career. He has a career free throw shooting percentage of .890%, and has been above .900% six different seasons. Now that he is a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, he will move back to the familiar role of being the sharpshooter off the bench. The Pelicans are going to be fun, but they aren’t necessarily dripping with shooters, which is where Redick will play a big role on this young team.
One of the biggest things when drafting players, is recognizing areas that they could potentially kill you. With free throws, this is mainly going to affect big men. So be careful on draft day that you don’t find yourself overrun with guys who are well below league average. It’s ok to have a few of these guys, because every team will draft them, but if half your squad hovers around .500%, you probably aren’t winning this category very often.
Guys like Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Andre Drummond, Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons are going to bring quite a bit to your team, but they’ll also bring your free throw percentage down. If you can afford to lose this category because you think they’ll win you other categories, go for it. But be careful, that could be a dangerous game to play.