Free Throw Factor (FTF) Determining Game Outcome

While watching the Warriors @ Mavericks Game 3 of the WCF last night, two statistics jumped out at me.  First, the Dallas Mavericks did not attempt a 2-point shot outside of the lane until the third quarter, and finished the game with only two mid-range attempts (0-2).  This seems like a foolish strategy to me especially when the Mavs’ Luka Doncic can get and make most any mid-range, step-back shot he wants, as well as creating open shots for teammates off those moves.  The memo hasn’t reached Dallas Coach Jason Kidd yet, but according to 30-year coach Eliot Smith at Lick-Wilmerding HS, the mid-range game is seeing a renaissance at the high school levels as players are realizing there are plenty of good looks and high percentage shots from 15 feet and in.  While Coach Bill and I both are realistic about our team’s 3-pt shooting percentages, we still encourage taking open 3’s but remind our players, consistently, that the 15′-19.75′ shots (the 3-pt line) are taboo in our offenses and the 14-ft wing bankers, 10-foot baseline shots and elbow to elbow jumpers, et al., are indeed welcome.

The second stat that jumped out at me was that in Game 1 and Game 2, the Warriors shot and made the exact same number of shots:  82 attempts, 46 makes.  56.1% both games.  Not only that, the Warriors took 29 three-pt shots in the first game; they took 28 in Game 2.  What also did not change was the blistering 2pt FG%.  The Warriors were 36-53 from 2pt range in Game 1 (68%) and 32-54 (59%) in Game 2.

On to Free Throw Rate.  The Mavericks attempted 34 Free Throw Attempts (FTA) last night and based on their total Field Goals Attempted (FGA) 75, Dallas had a Free Throw Rate (FTR) of .45, which is incredibly high (FTR in the low 20 percentiles is solid for most good teams.  The Mavs had a FTR of .37 in game 2 – a 127-119 loss – and a .24 FTR in Game 1, a 112-87 loss.  In Games 1, 2 and 3, the Warriors had a FTR of, respectively, .20, .30, .31).  In Game 3, three Maverick players had 29 of the 34 FTA’s (Doncic had 17 alone, Spencer Dinwiddie 8 and Jalen Brunson, 4).  Conversely, the Warriors had five players with 4 or more FTA’s, led by Stephen Curry with 6.  Those five Warriors accounted for 21-23 of the team’s free throws (out of the total 22-25, 88%).  Dallas finished with a team total of 27-34 from the FT line, a 79.4%.

The final score of the game was Warriors 109-100.  The Warriors led most of the way and once Golden State established a 10+ point lead, there never seemed a time when the outcome was in doubt.

Analyst Stan Van Gundy remarked how important it was for the trailing Mavs to get to the free throw line so a team is “scoring without time running off the clock,” which brings me to my next point.  Perhaps another way to create a meaningful metric of Free Throw Rate is by using a formula such as Shooting Fouls / Total Possessions (could be sub-categorized into transition and sets).  A case could always be made for drawing floor fouls plus shooting fouls and putting opponents into foul trouble and the penalty quicker but a lot depends on the refereeing in that case.  I’m also wondering if there is a formula for Shooting Fouls per shots inside five feet?  10 feet? That stat would be helpful to motivate and focus post players to improve shot fakes and footwork (and FT%), as well as for dribble-drive guards to be aware of when and how to draw fouls. Raising team FTR differential by playing through contact while drawing fouls on offense and causing contact on defense without fouling could be the small thing that earns a team a close win.





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Category: Analytics | Stats