I wrote something on this a little while back for the Daily Dime, but that was only three games in, so wanted to revisit it today (10 games since his return). Free Throw Rate measures how many foul shot attempts a player gets compared to the number of shots he takes. His Free Throw Rate at the time of my Daily Dime piece was .44, today it sits at .46. This is good for 34th in the league and is a tremendous upgrade from his Free Throw Rate of last year (.25).
So why is Free Throw Rate so important that I am talking about this again? Well getting to the line is important when you are looking for consistency in a player. In past years, Yi would put together a nice string of games, but then drop off, and it all had to do with his shooting. He was a feast or famine player when it came to his jumper and if his shot wasn’t going down, he wasn’t being a productive player.
Getting to the foul line resolves this issue. I mean, look at Yi’s last game against San Antonio. He was just 4-17 from the field in San Antonio, but he was able to score 16 points because he got himself to the line 10 times (hitting 8 of them). Yi is a good enough foul shooter that when he gets to the line he is basically getting free points. Not only does that help you in terms of production, but getting to the foul line also helps shooters get out of funks. If you are in a shooting skid, and go to the foul line, that is where you work the kinks out. You get 10 seconds and of no defense to take a shoot, get your stroke down, and most importantly you get to see the shot go in. Yi was in a big time shooting funk last year, and in my opinion, he didn’t get to the line often enough last year to break out of it. This year is a totally different story. He has attempted 74 foul shots so far this year in 14 games compared to the 123 he took all of last year.
So where did this come from, a lot of people (including myself) has speculated Yi’s new toughness was a result of his injuries this year, and when he came back, he was just a hungrier player. This may be true, but what nobody really has talked about was Kiki and Del’s effect on Yi’s attacking ways. It’s impossible to teach toughness though right? That’s what I thought too, but then I saw Yi working with Kiki, Del Harris, and Clifford Robinson yesterday:
Say what you will of Kiki’s coaching style, but it is obvious that Kiki knows that being able to take shots and still get his shot off is a key to Yi’s success. He has been stressing it to him all year, and it is obviously working. Another fun stat, Yi’s And 1 rate (And 1s/Field Goals Attempted) is up from 1.6 last year to 2.5 this year.