The free throw line is the easiest place to get points in the NBA. However, there’s a bit of a paradox inherent in free-throw shooting. The guys who get to the line the most — gigantic centers like Dwight Howard and Shaq, along with bruising perimeter players — tend to be the worst free-throw shooters when they actually get to the free throw line. Conversely, the best free throw shooters tend to play out on the perimeter and rarely actually get themselves to the line.
The Thunder’s Kevin Durant is a different story. Thanks to his relentless basket attacks and cruelly effective “rip” move, Durant gets to the line a lot. Durant shoots 10 free throws a game, with only Dwight Howard and LeBron James averaging more. And when Durant does shoot free-throws, he makes them. Not only is this combination a key to Durant’s success, it’s downright historic. On Daily Thunder, Royce Young has a post up featuring an observation made by one of his commenters about Durant’s season from the free throw line:
“I can’t get over how good Durant’s been from the line. He’s now shooting .894 from the line after tonight’s game, and is one pace for 820 free throw attempts. If Kevin Durant manages to shoot 93.3% the rest of the way, assuming his FTA stay the same (possible, he’s shooting almost 95% in march) he’ll be at exactly 90% for the year. Reggie Miller shot 91.8% on 600 attempts in 1991 for the modern (post 1960) record for attempts while making 90%+. Durant will blow that out of the water if he keeps this up.
Barring a collapse at the line, I think it’s likely we’re witnessing arguably the best season ever from the foul line, certainly the best in the last 20 years. It may not be an exciting thing to keep track of, but it’s pretty amazing.”
Even if Durant doesn’t hit the arbitrary 90% barrier, he’s having a historic season from the line. Nobody has ever made this many free throws per game while shooting this well from the line. In fact, only Dolph Schayes and Magic Johnson have even come close. There are plenty of stats that show how Durant’s blend of size, athleticism, and skill make him a transcendent scorer. Looking at Durant’s free-throw accuracy and volume together is one of the most eloquent ways to show how Durant, at 21 years old, has already turned scoring into a science.
Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.
That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.
Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.
He’s certainly got the athleticism.
James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.
Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.
Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.
“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”
We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.
Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.
Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?
If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.
I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.
Because it’s summer.
Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).
Because Stephen Curry did it, too.
Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?
And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.
So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.
Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.
Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.
Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.
Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?
A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.