One main talking point amongst Jazz fans recently has been free throws. In particular, as we make our evaluations of the Jazz' season so far, we're naturally trying to figure out which players are most efficient offensively, and free throws are an excellent indicator of that: players are simply more likely to hit them than they are to make a 2 point or 3 point basket. Thus, we take another dive into 82games' numbers, compiled using some Excel magic, and see what we can find.
Most of the above numbers are self explanatory, except for FGA, which actually includes those shots on which a player is fouled, unlike in typical box scores, when those are filtered out. A few things I want to point out:
- Our point guards are abysmal at drawing fouls. They are terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad at this. In fact, I want you to think of a point guard right now. Any point guard in the NBA. Okay. Got it? Now, evaluate him using this simple flowchart:
It's pretty simple, really. Jazz point guards draw fouls at a lower rate than the vast majority of the point guards in the league. That these 3 happen to be on the same team either indicates something unique about the Jazz system, or we just happened to gather some of the PGs who take the fewest free throws. Given how good Deron Williams and Devin Harris were at getting to the line, I'm choosing the latter.
- Favors and Millsap, our two PFs, on the other hand, do extremely well for themselves at drawing fouls, both averaging 5.7 points per 48 minutes at the free throw line. This is extremely important: the Jazz PGs rank 28th as a group at FTA, where the PFs rank 1st. This is an important reason why 82games ranks our PGs 27th in the league overall, but our PFs 4th.
- Gordon Hayward, the SLCDunk excitement child of the news cycle, ends up with the most points per 48 minutes from the free throw line. While I think we should temper the overall excitement over G-Time somewhat (guys, he's shooting 43%), Hayward has the best combination of aggressiveness and shooting ability to get a significant amount of his points from the line on the Jazz.
- Ty may want to consider playing more Favors and Millsap together. Drawn fouls are a positive synergistic element in basketball. That is to say, when there are multiple players on the floor at the same time who can all draw fouls, the team benefits more than if those players were played separately. This is because of the bonus rule: if a team can accumulate 5 fouls drawn in a quarter, they get free throws and easy points for their troubles. We saw this in the Dallas game: The fourth quarter rapidly saw Dallas into foul trouble, due to Burks, Kanter, Hayward, and Favors or Millsap playing together. As a result, the Jazz got 4 easy trips to the free throw line early in the quarter from non-shooting fouls. In a game as close as Monday's, that's a critical advantage. At the beginning of quarters, or at the end of ones in which the Jazz are in the bonus, Ty should weigh the pluses and minuses of playing those players who draw more fouls.
Overall, though, this is perhaps the single most dividing statistic between the youth and the veterans on the Utah Jazz. If the youth is truly the future of the franchise, we can probably look happily toward an era of efficient offense through getting to the line.