The Pelican Blog

Brian Roberts on record-setting free-throw pace

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer Brian Roberts prepares to shoot a free throw during a recent road game

New Orleans Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts is the greatest free-throw shooter in NBA history.

OK, well maybe not officially – Roberts hasn’t attempted enough foul shots to qualify for that distinction. Still, among all players in NBA history who’ve attempted at least 150 free throws in their career, the second-year pro’s percentage of 92.4 is the highest ever.

“That’s pretty amazing,” the University of Dayton product said when he was informed of his place atop the all-time list. “Throughout my career in college and overseas, it’s something that’s been pretty consistent for me. I’ve always been in the upper 80s (in percentage), but to be in the mid- to low-90s, I think that’s the best I’ve done.”

“First in NBA history? That’s awesome,” said teammate Ryan Anderson, himself an 85.9 percent career foul shooter who made an incredible 95.2 percent this season before being sidelined by injury.

Since joining New Orleans as a rookie in 2012-13, Roberts has connected on a total of 146 of his 158 attempts from the foul line, including a recent stretch in which he sank 32 in a row. After a 90.9 rate as a rookie, he’s up to 93.8 this season, which is better than league leader Dirk Nowitzki’s 91.6 percentage.

Unfortunately, you won’t see Roberts’ name yet in the official 2013-14 leaders, because according to Basketball-Reference, a player must make at least 125 free throws in a single season in order to qualify for the lead. The 28-year-old has gone 76-for-81 from the charity stripe in 2013-14, meaning he needs 49 more makes to have a chance to take the No. 1 spot from Nowitzki.

Career-wise, a player must make 1,200 free throws to be listed in the all-time record book. Los Angeles Lakers guard and two-time league MVP Steve Nash is currently the best-ever career foul shooter, at 90.4 percent.

An 84.8 career foul shooter over his four college seasons at Dayton, Roberts shot 86.8 percent in Euroleague competition while playing for the German team Brose Baskets Bamberg. Despite now performing under the intense spotlight of the NBA, he’s managed to increase his accuracy again. The Toledo native said one key to his success has been an ability to focus at the line, the one instance on a basketball court where a player can’t be defended.

“One thing is just having a routine and staying consistent with that,” Roberts said. “Also, just kind of blocking everything out and just shooting. I don’t really think about much when I’m at the line. I just think about how it’s two free points.”

“It’s completely mental,” said Anderson, who misfired on only three of his 62 free throws this season. “The more you gain confidence in your game, the more years you have of experience, the more you’re used to the crowd getting at you and eliminating distractions. When you gain more experience in the NBA, you know what it’s like to be in pressure situations. It doesn’t shock you. It doesn’t surprise you anymore.”

Although there doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement for him at the foul line, Roberts said he’d like to get there more frequently over the rest of 2013-14. In his 24 starts, he’s averaging 2.0 attempts per game.

“It definitely would be good to get there more often,” a smiling Roberts said of his trips to the foul line. “But (to have the best percentage ever), that’s pretty good.”