BOSTON – The lack of free throws taken by the Boston Celtics has become a topic of discussion, highlighted by them taking just nine attempts in a home loss to San Antonio on Friday.
I asked head coach Brad Stevens recently about his team’s struggles to get to the free throw line.
Boston ranks 25th in the NBA with 20.4 free throw attempts per game.
“We played good offense (against San Antonio),” Stevens said. “That doesn’t mean you’re always going to get to the free throw line. But I thought we played pretty good offense for most of the night.”
Free throw shooting is certainly a factor in a team’s success, but how big a deal is it?
Well that depends on what your goal is for that season.
For Boston, it is to get as close to being a title contender as possible with the knowledge that in all likelihood it won’t happen this spring.
So if that is indeed their focus, Boston’s lack of free throw attempts isn’t something that should interfere in their quest to be an elite team that’s in the conversation to win a title.
In fact, the overwhelming majority of teams that have won NBA titles in the last 10 years have not done so with a barrage of trips to the free throw line.
Of the last 10 NBA champions, none finished in the top-7 in free throw attempts in the year they won it all. But at the opposite end of the free throw spectrum you will find five past champions which includes the last three (Cleveland last year; Golden State in 2015 and San Antonio in 2014) that finished in the bottom-7 in free throw attempts.
So while the Celtics would love to spend more time cashing in on free throws, recent history suggests that it won’t be a significant issue when it comes to being in position to compete for an NBA title.
“It’s an important thing but you have to play to your strengths,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of guys who haven’t been high free throw rate players throughout their careers. Some guys may be able to incrementally (improve) … but guys like Isaiah, he’s going to get to the free throw line as long as he’s playing; you play to your strengths. If you’re not getting there as much as a team you have to balance it out and make sure you don’t turn the ball over, make sure you’re taking the right shots, win in other areas. Kind of like the rebounding thing; that’s something our team is going to have to manage.”