One Team, One Stat: Kings make some dubious free-throw history
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Sacramento Kings, who set a record for not getting to the line.
The Kings attempted 19.4 free throws per 100 shots from the field.
That was the lowest free throw rate (FTA/FGA) in NBA history.
League-wide free throw rate has been trending down for the last 12 years and hit an all-time low of 25.2 attempts per 100 shots from the field last season. (The previous low was 26.1 in 1972-73.) Nine of the 18 lowest free throw rates in league history have come in the last two seasons, with last season’s Bulls, Knicks and Mavs joining the Kings in the bottom 10.
If you compare teams’ free throw rates vs. the league average, the Kings had just the 29th biggest discrepancy (-5.8) in the league’s 72 seasons. Still, ranking last in free throw rate is not good. Getting to the line is the most efficient way to score.
To get to the line, you generally have to get the basket. The Kings ranked 26th in drives per game and 28th in the percentage of their shots that came from the restricted area.
In regard to personnel, the Kings are young. Last season, they led the league in the percentage of their minutes that were played by rookies (34 percent) and by rookies and second-year players combined (54 percent).
But in regard to their playing style, the Kings are old-school. They ranked last in both pace (possessions per 48 minutes) and the percentage of their shots that came from the restricted area or 3-point range.
The Kings actually ranked third in 3-point percentage at 37.5 percent. They just didn’t take advantage of that skill.
Zach Randolph, of course, remains old-school. In addition to having a free throw rate of just 0.140 (the seventh lowest rate among 94 players 6-9 or taller who attempted at least 300 shots from the field), Randolph took only 47 percent of his shots from between the restricted area and 3-point range, the 14th lowest rate among 222 players with at least 400 total field goal attempts.
But in that regard, Randolph was outdone by a pair of teammates that were three and five years old when he was drafted. De’Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere took 47 percent and 40 percent of their shots, respectively, from between the restricted area and 3-point range. Those were the 12th and fifth lowest rates among the 222 players who took at least 400 shots total.
There were 11 Kings who attempted at least 300 shots last season, and all 11 were below the league average (65 percent) in regard to the percentage of their shots that came from the most efficient areas of the floor. The closest was Garrett Temple, who was traded in July.
New forward Nemanja Bjelica took 79 percent of his shots from the restricted area (30 percent) or 3-point range (49 percent), but was one of the six players 6-foot-9 or taller with at least 300 field goal attempts and a lower free throw rate than Randolph (0.121).
The Kings remain in player development mode, with nine guys in their first, second or third seasons. And in regard to team development, they’d benefit from better shot selection and more trips to the line.
Note: Stats marked with an * below are based on possession estimates. All other stats are based on true possession counts.
KINGS NOTES – GENERAL
- Current 12-year playoff drought is tied for the third-longest dry spell in NBA history.
- Have been a worse-than-average offensive team and a worse-than-average defensive team in each of the last 12 seasons.
- One of four teams — Chicago, Memphis and Phoenix are the others — that ranked in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Had the league’s biggest differential between actual wins and “expected” wins (based on point differential). Were 27-55 with the point differential of a team that was 20-62.
- Were outscored by a league-worst 4.1 points per game at the free throw line.
- Led by at least 20 points for just 14 total minutes, fewest in the league, last season. Had only five wins (tied with Phoenix for the fewest in the league) that weren’t within five points in the last five minutes.
KINGS NOTES – OFFENSE
- One of three teams (the Cavs and Clippers were the others) that saw a drop in both 3-point percentage (from 37.6 percent to 37.5 percent) and the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (from 29 percent to 28 percent) from 2016-17 to ’17-18.
- Saw the league’s biggest drop-off in the percentage of their 3-point attempts that were off the catch, from 79 percent (third in the league) in 2016-17 to 70 percent (23rd) last season.
- The 0.77 points per possession their pick-and-roll ball-handlers scored was the league’s third-worst mark.
- The 0.97 points per possession their roll men scored was the league’s second-worst mark.
- Ranked 12th in clutch offense (106.5 points scored per 100 possessions) and 30th in non-clutch offense.
KINGS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have ranked in the bottom five in points allowed per 100 possessions in six of the last 10 seasons.
- Had the league’s biggest differential between opponent effective field goal percentage (54.2 percent; 30th) and opponent field goal percentage (47.0 percent; 25th), largely because they were the only team that ranked in the bottom five in both opponent 3-point percentage (37.7 percent; 29th) and the percentage of opponent shots that came from 3-point range (38.3 percent; 30th). Their opponents’ ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts was a league-high 2.2.
- Only team that allowed opposing pick-and-roll ball-handlers to register an effective field goal percentage better than 50 percent.
- Ranked 16th defensively (108.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) after the All-Star break after ranking 28th (111.0) before the break.
KINGS NOTES – LINEUPS
- One of five teams that didn’t have a lineup that played at least 200 minutes together. Most-used lineup played just 174 total minutes.
- Got 45 percent of their total scoring, the highest rate in the league, from off the bench.
- Were outscored by 11.8 points per 100 possessions with Randolph on the floor. That was the fourth worst on-court NetRtg among 224 players who averaged at least 20 minutes per game in 40 games or more.
- Averaged just 95.2 possessions per 48 minutes with Frank Mason on the floor. That was the slowest on-court pace mark among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more.
- Highest on-court OffRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Mason and Buddy Hield. The Kings scored 103.7 points per 100 possessions (a rank which would have ranked just 27th in the league) in 700 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Lowest on-court DefRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Mason and Kosta Koufos. The Kings allowed just 98.9 points per 100 possessions in 512 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
KINGS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Nemanja Bjelica shot 42 percent from 3-point range, up from 32 percent in 2016-17. That was the second biggest jump in 3-point percentage among 183 players who attempted at least 100 3-pointers each season.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic ranked in the top 10 among rookies in total minutes (sixth), 3-pointers (fourth), assists (sixth), and steals (seventh).
- Bogdanovic shot 39.3 percent on pull-up 3-pointers, the eighth best mark among 56 players who attempted at least 100.
- In each season since his rookie year, Willie Cauley-Stein has seen drops in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, but an increase in assist rate.
- De’Aaron Fox scored just 0.70 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, tied for the worst mark among 35 players who averaged at least three ball-handler possessions per game.
- Buddy Hield ranked ninth in 3-point percentage at 43.1 percent. He shot 49.6 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, the best mark among 100 players who attempted at least 200.
- Justin Jackson attempted just nine free throws for every 100 shots from the field (36/419). That was the fifth lowest free throw rate among 223 players with at least 400 field goal attempts. Hield (81/933) had the sixth lowest rate among that same group.
- Skal Labissiere shot 34 percent on post-ups, the worst mark among 40 players with at least 100 post-up field goal attempts. Cauley-Stein had the fourth worst mark (42.1 percent).
- Frank Mason had an effective field goal percentage of 42.0 percent, the second worst mark among 269 players with at least 300 field goal attempts. He shot just 43 percent in the restricted area, the worst mark among 249 players with at least 100 restricted-area attempts.
- Zach Randolph‘s effective field goal percentage of 50.7 percent was his highest since 2002-03 (his second season in the league). His assist ratio of 12.1 per 100 possessions was the highest of his career.
NBA TV’s Kings preview premieres at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 11.
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