Plenty of room for improvement for Nuggets at free-throw line

Denver finished 28th in NBA at charity stripe in 2012-13
by Aaron Lopez

Missed free throws translated into missed opportunities for the Denver Nuggets last season.

First-year coach Brian Shaw didn’t have to see the exact numbers to know that Denver’s 28th-ranked free-throw percentage (.701) likely prevented it from adding to a team-record 57 wins.

The Nuggets lost 14 games by six points or less in 2012-13. In 12 of those games, they missed at least seven free throws.

“Usually, that’s how it plays out,” Shaw said. “It goes to show how important free throws are.”
Shaw, a.782 free throw shooter during his 14-year NBA career, tested his team’s mettle at the line after practice Thursday. Each player had to take one shot. Four combined misses meant extra running.

It took a few tries, but the Nuggets hit the target goal to wrap up another long training camp session. In addition to repetition, Shaw plans to bring in a sports psychologist to talk to the players about mental focus.

“We just want them to get the mental aspect of the game in general, being mindful of everything that’s going on and to relax when you get to the free-throw line,” Shaw said. “Just focus in on the fact that it’s a free shot.”

The additions of guards Randy Foye and Nate Robinson and the departure of free agent Andre Iguodala (.574 last season) should help improve Denver’s foul shooting. Foye is a career .856 shooter and has never been lower than .815, while Robinson is .798 for his career.

“It’s more mental. Anybody can shoot free throws,” Foye said. “To me, it’s routine and muscle memory. I’ve been shooting free throws the same way since my sophomore year in college.”

The Nuggets want Foye, Robinson and other top free-throw shooters such as Andre Miller (.808), Wilson Chandler (.788) and Ty Lawson (.774) to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

For everyone else, a change for the better might prevent future missed opportunities.