The Utah Jazz, in my mind, are known for playing physical defense, and have a paint oriented attack. As a Jazz fan of over 20 years this means I've seen a lot of players (ours and theirs) taking free throws over my life. I've probably seen way more free throw makes than three point attempts, if we're keeping score. But let's talk about our shot distribution another day. Today we're going to investigate what is "normal" for a modern era Jazz team, and what's happening so far this pre-season. My modern era I'm just talking about from the 2004-2005 season till now. That gives us a data set of ten years + the pre-season. And instead of looking at the team as a whole, I'm looking at a better, smarter application. Specifically, the top five players from each season in terms of free throw attempts (FTA). It's not attempts per game either, because I don't want to make this all about Alec Burks.
Anyway, to start off with let's look at the Top 5 players on the team this pre-season in FTA.
There were a number of other guys with 4 FTA, but Trey Burke gets the mention here because he's our leading scorer. Also, please note that this is after three pre-season games. So the sample size is very, very small. And as a result, this is why alarmists are only really worried about this right now. If we don't get better after a month then I'll be right there with you too. But this is too soon for me. All that said, these guys are getting to the line, and leaving a bunch of points there. I can't condone 56.3 FT% from our group of top FTA guys. I doubt Head coach Quin Snyder will either.
So how bad is it compared to the control group of the previous 10 seasons? Let's see:
|1||Mehmet Okur||329||387||85.0%||1||Andrei Kirilenko||346||495||69.9%||1||Mehmet Okur||296||387||76.5%||1||Deron Williams||330||411||80.3%||1||Deron Williams||326||384||84.9%|
|2||Matt Harpring||245||315||77.8%||2||Mehmet Okur||354||454||78.0%||2||Carlos Boozer||255||372||68.5%||2||Carlos Boozer||290||393||73.8%||2||Ronnie Brewer||247||352||70.2%|
|3||Carlos Boozer||187||268||69.8%||3||Matt Harpring||227||313||72.5%||3||Matt Harpring||237||309||76.7%||3||Andrei Kirilenko||198||257||77.0%||3||Mehmet Okur||273||334||81.7%|
|4||Andrei Kirilenko||203||259||78.4%||4||Jarron Collins||157||219||71.7%||4||Derek Fisher||262||307||85.3%||4||Ronnie Brewer||195||257||75.9%||4||Paul Millsap||228||326||69.9%|
|5||Raja Bell||112||150||74.7%||5||Devin Brown||158||212||74.5%||5||Deron Williams||227||296||76.7%||5||Mehmet Okur||185||230||80.4%||5||Andrei Kirilenko||244||311||78.5%|
|1||Deron Williams||355||418||84.9%||1||Deron Williams||302||354||85.3%||1||Paul Millsap||202||255||79.2%||1||Paul Millsap||264||356||74.2%||1||Gordon Hayward||311||381||81.6%|
|2||Carlos Boozer||285||384||74.2%||2||Paul Millsap||256||338||75.7%||2||Gordon Hayward||193||232||83.2%||2||Gordon Hayward||243||294||82.7%||2||Alec Burks||279||373||74.8%|
|3||Paul Millsap||183||264||69.3%||3||Al Jefferson||220||289||76.1%||3||Devin Harris||156||209||74.6%||3||Derrick Favors||179||260||68.8%||3||Derrick Favors||190||284||66.9%|
|4||Mehmet Okur||196||239||82.0%||4||Andrei Kirilenko||208||270||77.0%||4||Derrick Favors||126||194||64.9%||4||Al Jefferson||167||217||77.0%||4||Enes Kanter||149||204||73.0%|
|5||Andrei Kirilenko||174||234||74.4%||5||C.J. Miles||159||196||81.1%||5||Al Jefferson||137||177||77.4%||5||Randy Foye||118||144||81.9%||5||Richard Jefferson||120||162||74.1%|
I know, lengthy data set is lengthy. Forget it, let's just use this simplified one instead:
Okay, well, this doesn't look to hot. So after 3 preseason games it looks bad. But it's early, and this data set is almost meaningless. Of course, the other trends are the micro-trends. Specifically you may have noticed that Derrick Favors is on this list for 2014-15, and for the previous three seasons as well. His FT% has followed as suck: 64.9%, 68.8%, 66.9%, and so far this preseason 58.8%. I'm not going to expect a 23 year old kid to shoot as well as a 36 year old Karl Malone from the line. (Karl shot 59.8% from the FT line at the age of 23, by the way) So there is lot of time for him to improve. I am certain he will as well. For me the larger worry is always going to be Alec Burks.
I have always been enamored with his ability to get to the line, even as a rookie he got the respect of NBA refs. (This is something Paul Millsap didn't get until the playoffs last year) He has a very high rate of getting there, and features to be one of the top FTA guys for our franchise every year he suits up in a Jazz uniform. The issue is that he fails one of my own baseline qualities to justify being a starting NBA shooting guard. He is a sub 80% free throw shooter. He needs to get it to 80% or higher this year -- for the sake of our team, our gameplan, and for his own career. It's not out of sight, he's gone 73%, 71%, and 75% (74.8%) in his first three seasons in the NBA. He's also 23 years old. IF he can get to that low 80ies value he is a deadly weapon. If he can be 85% or higher, he will be able to straight up decapitate teams by himself.
So yes, right now we have a free throw issue that needs to be resolved. It's early, both in the season (it's October), and in personnel (our "best" guys are all under 24 and will improve). So I'm not worried.
But this is a good thing to keep track of. After all, making your free throws indicates good focus and discipline. And discipline is one of the three unfulfilled D's from last season.