Click here to Skip to main content
LATEST HEADLINES - NBA NEWS
shaq_numbers.jpg
Shaq once famously said of his erratic free throw shooting, "I make them when they count."
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Does Shaq make free throws when it counts?


Posted Oct 29 2009 5:58PM

Last week, we introduced you to StatsCube, a tool that the NBA has developed to do instantaneous statistical analysis on play-by-play data. StatsCube has access to every play-by event since 1996, and with just a few clicks of the mouse, statistics can be broken down in a myriad of ways.

You can run queries through StatsCube to analyze player or team stats with respect to time (game time or the time a player has spent on the court), score, fouls accumulated, a player's presence on the floor, and more.

numbers_game.jpg

It's a valuable tool for coaches and front office personnel. And now, it can be a valuable tool for you.

The Numbers Game, a notebook of compelling statistical notes from the week in the NBA, will run every Thursday. And we want you to help us write it. Every week, we'll answer any compelling questions you might have for StatsCube, so start sending them in via e-mail or twitter.

What kinds of questions can you ask? Basically anything you might be curious about, but can't tell from just watching a game or looking at the boxscore.

Why exactly did Shane Battier have a -22 on Tuesday in Portland?

Does Andrew Bynum become less effective after he's picked up his fourth foul?

How much more do the Cavs run their offense through LeBron James in the fourth quarter vs. the first three quarters?

Here are four more examples, with the answers...

Does Shaq really make them when they count?

Shaquille O'Neal has shot better from the field (58.2 percent) than from the free throw line (52.8 percent) during the course of his 17-year career. His ineptitude from the charity stripe (the league average since his rookie season has been 74.8 percent) has led to the often-used "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy, where a team goes against all basketball impulses and fouls on purpose.

Several years ago, when questioned about his free-throw percentage, Shaq said, "I make them when they count."

But does he really?

First of all, the idea that a free throw late in the game is more important than a free throw early in the game is dubious. They're both worth one point. But for the sake of this exercise, we'll take a look at Shaq's "clutchness" -- whether he's a better free-throw shooter late in close games than he is at other times. Obviously, he doesn't turn into Steve Nash at the stripe down the stretch, but perhaps he can at least turn into Tim Duncan, a career 69 percent shooter.

For clutch situations, we're looking at the last five minutes of a game, with a scoring margin of five points or less.

Shaquille ONeals Free-Throw Shooting, Last Eight Seasons (including playoffs)
  CLUTCH SITUATIONS OTHER SITUATIONS DIFFERENCE
YEAR FTM FTA PCT FTM FTA PCT PCT
2001-02 40 64 62.5% 493 861 57.3% +5.2%
2002-03 42 71 59.2% 491 786 62.5% -3.3%
2003-04 28 63 44.4% 412 867 47.5% -3.1%
2004-05 32 69 46.4% 371 802 46.3% +0.1%
2005-06 18 49 36.7% 271 604 44.9% -8.1%
2006-07 12 18 66.7% 121 303 39.9% +26.7%
2007-08 11 20 55.0% 191 382 50.0% +5.0%
2008-09 21 29 72.4% 288 490 58.8% +13.6%
TOTAL 204 383 53.3% 2638 5095 51.8% 1.5%

According to Hoopedia, the "I make them when they count" quote came in 2003. So at the time, as you can see from the chart above, the claim was not exactly accurate. But give Shaq credit, over the last three seasons, he has become a somewhat better shooter in clutch situations. Of course, the +26.7 percent increase in 2006-07 is more about how poorly he shot in non-clutch situations. Forty percent is pretty atrocious.

So who does make them when they count?

Looking just at active players with a minimum of 50 free throw attempts in clutch situations...

Biggest Difference, Clutch vs. Non-Clutch Situations, 2001-02 through 2008-09
  CLUTCH SITUATIONS NON-CLUTCH SITUATIONS DIFFERENCE
PLAYER FTM FTA FT% FTM FTA FT% FT%
Carlos Arroyo 63 69 91.3% 608 770 79.0% +12.3%
Shane Battier 84 98 85.7% 944 1270 74.3% +11.4%
Nate Robinson 85 95 89.5% 578 738 78.3% +11.2%
Nene 61 81 75.3% 1089 1651 66.0% +9.3%
Brandon Roy 99 112 88.4% 840 1053 79.8% +8.6%
Chris Kaman 50 62 80.6% 758 1038 73.0% +7.6%
Chris Wilcox 43 60 71.7% 766 1176 65.1% +6.5%
Carlos Boozer 125 159 78.6% 1313 1821 72.1% +6.5%
Hedo Turkoglu 159 186 85.5% 1637 2067 79.2% +6.3%
Chris Duhon 58 67 86.6% 450 560 80.4% +6.2%
Includes postseason

Note to Erik Spoelstra: If you've got a small lead in the final minute of a game, put the new guy in.

And who doesn't?

Again, looking at active players with a minimum of 50 attempts in clutch situations...

Biggest Difference, Non-Clutch to Clutch Situations, 2001-02 through 2008-09
  CLUTCH SITUATIONS NON-CLUTCH SITUATIONS DIFFERENCE
PLAYER FTM FTA FT% FTM FTA FT% FT%
Tony Battie 35 57 61.4% 491 705 69.6% -8.2%
Jason Williams 70 91 76.9% 581 680 85.4% -8.5%
Erick Dampier 38 70 54.3% 1084 1721 63.0% -8.7%
Nazr Mohammed 32 58 55.2% 721 1114 64.7% -9.5%
Boris Diaw 37 60 61.7% 609 853 71.4% -9.7%
Rudy Gay 39 58 67.2% 625 811 77.1% -9.8%
Chucky Atkins 84 122 68.9% 731 916 79.8% -11.0%
Anthony Parker 37 51 72.5% 361 430 84.0% -11.4%
Bobby Simmons 71 99 71.7% 616 736 83.7% -12.0%
Samuel Dalembert 49 89 55.1% 721 1032 69.9% -14.8%
Includes postseason

Note to Eddie Jordan: Take the tall, skinny guy out if the other team's going to foul you down the stretch.

Does Jason Kidd really make his teammates better?

Jason Kidd may have slowed down in the last few years, but he's still the best passer in the league. There are a lot of great young point guards in the NBA, but none of them have the court vision Kidd has.

The theory is that Kidd' passing ability and his basketball I.Q. make his teammates better, because he can get them the ball in a better position to score. But does that bear out? Let'

Take a look at last season's Mavs...

2008-09 Dallas Mavericks, Shooting Percentage
  KIDD OFF COURT KIDD ON COURT DIFFERENCE
PLAYER MIN FG% TS% MIN FG% TS% FG% TS%
J.J. Barea 985 0.470 0.551 615 0.405 0.470 -0.065 -0.081
Brandon Bass 707 0.482 0.550 867 0.510 0.591 +0.028 +0.042
Matt Carroll 111 0.269 0.367 29 0.286 0.286 +0.016 -0.081
Erick Dampier 156 0.579 0.588 1680 0.655 0.669 +0.076 +0.081
DeSagana Diop 232 0.469 0.473 220 0.269 0.316 -0.200 -0.157
Devean George 222 0.385 0.517 485 0.379 0.472 -0.006 -0.046
Gerald Green 156 0.519 0.592 219 0.379 0.452 -0.141 -0.140
Ryan Hollins 129 0.387 0.455 131 0.679 0.639 +0.291 +0.185
Josh Howard 316 0.381 0.487 1347 0.462 0.539 +0.081 +0.052
Dirk Nowitzki 582 0.449 0.539 2469 0.485 0.570 +0.036 +0.031
James Singleton 413 0.490 0.590 471 0.564 0.636 +0.074 +0.046
Jerry Stackhouse 79 0.250 0.250 84 0.278 0.384 +0.028 +0.134
Jason Terry 829 0.438 0.538 1661 0.474 0.585 +0.036 +0.047
Shawne Williams 101 0.361 0.406 69 0.150 0.243 -0.211 -0.163
Antoine Wright 356 0.295 0.397 1196 0.442 0.526 +0.147 +0.129
TOTALS   0.442 0.527 0.477 0.559 +0.035 +0.032
TS% = True Shooting Percentage = PTS (2/(FGA + (0.44*FTA)))

We can see that, as a whole, Jason Kidd does indeed make his teammates better shooters. For some guys, (like Erick Dampier, Ryan Hollins, James Singleton and Antoine Wright) he makes them much better. And you will probably notice that, of the five players who had a worse field-goal percentage with Kidd on the floor last season, just one is still with the Mavericks: J.J. Barea.

If you've got a question for StatsCube, please submit it via e-mail or twitter, and we may get to it in the coming weeks.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here.. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

.

SEARCH NEWS
LATEST VIDEOS
photoBen Simmons ranks at #8 on the #Fantasy100!
GreggSussman from @FNTSYSportsNet talks about the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year, and how effective he was for the @sixers, posting 3413.3 #NBAFantasy points.
photoJimmy Butler's Top 5 Plays from the 2017-18 Season
Check out the top 5 plays from the 2017-18 season!
photoBen Simmons' Best Moments from Rookie Season
Relive some of the best moments from 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons!
photoBreanna Stewart's Journey
Take a look at Breanna Stewart's path to the WNBA championship.
photoSophomore Player Outlook
The GameTime crew share their thoughts on which of last year's rookies will make a big leap in their sophomore season.

Copyright © NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. No portion of NBA.com may be duplicated, redistributed or manipulated in any form. By accessing any information beyond this page, you agree to abide by the Privacy Policy / Your California Privacy Rights and Terms of Use. | Ad Choices Ad Choices

NBA.com is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.