How Important are Free Throws?

In the NBA, teams shoot anywhere from 72% to 82% from the free throw line. The average team hits approximately 77% from the charity stripe. You may think that teams that have the highest team free throw percentages tend to win the most games and would be good NBA bets. But this is not necessarily the case.

As an example, Dallas, the best free throw shooting club in the NBA, proved to be a good overall bet. They won the second-most games in the West in 2010 while shooting close to 82% from the line.  However, Cleveland, a team that was first in the East and won more games than any other team in the league, was dead last in foul shooting that same year.

Overall Effect of Free NBA Throws

Free throws can win games to a degree but they are not the only thing to consider. The main thing to realize is that like defense, three point shooting, rebounding and other aspects of the game, they are part of a bigger picture.

FTA and FT%

The way to put free throws in perspective is to look at free throw attempts (FTA) and free throw percentage (FT%) together. If a team has a high percentage of completions from the line but are taking very few shots, the free throws won’t be a big factor.

If you look at a club like the Knicks in 2009-2010, you will see a team that could hit frees at the rate of 78%! Making them fourth in free throw percentage. But the problem was they averaged just 21.5 FTA per game. That’s 27th in the league. New York won just 29 games and finished well out of the playoff picture.

From the same season, Denver, Utah and Oklahoma City were the top three teams in terms of free throw attempts. Denver hit 77%, Utah 74% and Oklahoma City 81%. Two of the three placed in the top ten for free throw percentage and all three won 50 or more games and went to the playoffs.

Individual NBA Foul Shooting

The other thing you want to consider is how many guys on the team are actually good foul shooters. A club with five or six players who can hit consistently from the stripe has the chance to put some important points on the board. Also, the greater the number of players who can hit, then the better a team’s chances are of getting to the line and converting.

The 2009-2010 Dallas Mavericks are a great example of this. They had six players who averaged double digits per game in scoring and each of those guys completed at least 76% of his frees. Together those six players averaged an 82 FT%, with Dirk Nowitzki hitting a high if 92%. The Mavs won 55 games, finished second in the West and fourth overall.

The Charity Stripe in Perspective – NBA Betting

It is always important in sports betting to balance off stats and to remember that when used properly statistics can give you a glimpse of one specific aspect of a team, and when combined with other figures can provide you with a solid overall picture of the club.