Friday, April 25, 2014

Improvements at the Free Throw Line Support Magic Growth


The Magic finished the 2012-2013 season averaging 16.6 free throw attempts per game. That ended up being an NBA record for fewest free throws attempted per game in a season. It would have been worse had the Magic not acquired Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih in that Milwaukee Bucks deal. Orlando in the first 52 games of last season had an abysmal 15.7 FTAs average. After the All-Star Break, the Magic went the last 30 games averaging 18.1 charity stripe attempts per game. 
On the bright side, no Dwight Howard meant Head Coach Jacque Vaughn's squad isn't horrible at converting at the line. Orlando shot 75.5 FT%, good enough for 15th in the league in '12-'13. To give you an idea, the Magic didn't show that type of FT efficiency since the 2004-2005 season - Dwight and Jameer Nelson's rookie years - where that squad tallied 75.9 FT%. 
This season Orlando vastly improved at getting to the free throw line, averaging 20.9 FTAs. Good enough for 26th in the league. The Magic were 12th in the league in percentage at 76.3 FT%. Baby steps. Great teams know how to get to the free throw line, and Orlando is at least heading in the right direction. For one thing, rookie Victor Oladipo was a massive help averaging 4 FTAs in his debut campaign. That was 2nd best on the Magic behind Arron Afflalo and slightly better than Tobias.
Also, other Magic players were more aggressive at attacking the paint than last year. Orlando's charity stripe attempts average was only 19.6 following the All-Star Break because of Coach Vaughn cutting down minutes for Tobias and Oladipo. Let's look at who made a leap in improving their trips to the free throw line.
One reason Arron Afflalo raised his scoring to a career-best 18.2 ppg was because he went from 3.5 FTAs last season to a team-high 4.6 FTAs in '13-'14. There were 11 out of his sixty-four played games in '12-'13 in which 'AA' didn't attempt a free throw. This season, Afflalo only went free throw-less in seven of his 73 games. Progress.

Nikola Vucevic is the franchise center and he needs to attack the rim more. Last season 'Vucci Mane' only averaged 1.6 FTAs. In the 77 games he played in '12-'13, Nik didn't attempt a free throw in THIRTY-THREE of them. That's absurd. Now I will say that 'Vooch' had not garnered any respect from officiating crews, but still that needed to get WAY better. And it did. This campaign he was an improved 2.4 FTAs. Not great, but trending in the proper direction. Nik only played 57 games, but he only had 15 games where there wasn't a charity stripe trip. Positive trends.

That's basically it as far as noticeable growth at the free throw line goes. None of the multi-year crop of Magic players saw a drop-off on FTAs except for Andrew Nicholson which shouldn't shock anyone. Although, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O'Quinn showed impeccable maturation in their games and roles as the season progressed, that didn't really translate into more FTAs. However, I expect both to see more charity stripe trips next year. It's evident that going forward, Victor, Arron, Tobias, Vucevic, and the incoming Lottery draft picks will be tasked with raising the 20.9 FTAs average next season. 

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