Free Throw Rate (Free Throws Attempted/Field Goals Attempted) is a very important metric to look at when evaluating a team’s performance. Free Throw rate measures how often a team gets to the line in comparison with how many shots they take. In fact, it is so important that Dean Oliver listed it as one of the four factors to winning in his book “Basketball On Paper.” When looking at the Nets’ FTR in wins and losses, it becomes obvious that FTR is the most important four factor for the Nets:
The Nets’ FTR in wins would have them ranked 10th in the league. Their FTR in losses would have them ranked 19th, which is their ranking in all games. If you stop and think about it, it does in fact make sense. The Nets’ are one of the worst teams in the NBA when it comes to just about every offensive category (They are last in TS%, 3P%, and Offensive Efficiency). There are going to be stretches where they just don’t score, and during those stretches, they are going to have to a find a way to put points on the board. That way is getting to the foul line. If they don’t get to the line during their dry spells, they don’t score, and when they don’t score that is when teams pull away from the Nets (or more recently, come back against them).
Think I am blowing this out of proportion. Lets look at three games that illustrate my point. The first game resulted in a one point loss for the Nets. But how did the Nets keep the game close, especially since the Heat have more talent than them?
The Nets FTR (in blue) was 30%, while the Heat FTR (in black) was 17.8%. Next we are going to look at the two games against the Knicks. A Knicks team that is equal/lesser in talent than the Nets. In these two games, the Knicks won going away. Why? The Free Throw Rate:
The Knicks (in blue) had a FTR of 35.5% in the first game and 44.1% in the second game. Meanwhile the Nets had a FTR of 22.1% in the first game and one of 18.7% in the second.
So why is the Nets’ Free Throw Rate so low? Well the first reason is that Devin Harris (who ranks 8th among players who play 20+ minutes a game) missed a lot of time. Not just on shot attempts either, he is great at drawing contact on the outside, accumulating fouls and getting the Nets into the bonus early in the quarter.
The second reason is they have way too many players who settle for outside jumpers. Terrence Williams, Bobby Simmons, and Josh Boone are all guys who have gotten a lot of minutes so far this season, and they all have a Free Throw Rate of under 20%. CDR’s Free Throw Rate is also very low for his style of play (22% when the league average is 30.4%). That means he has been settling for too many jumpers.
What all of this means is that if the Nets want to win or keep games closer, they need to attack the basket and stop settling for jumpers. Attacking the basket allows them to get easy points and keep games close, especially during stretches when they can’t hit shots.