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.
Luka Doncic? Marvin Bagley III? Jaren Jackson Jr.?
If you were in the shoes of Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings, who would you draft No. 2?
In this latest PBT Podcast, Kurt Helin and Rob Dauster (who has been writing the in-depth prospect profiles such as Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., Deandre Ayton, and others — of NBC Sports try on those shoes — and go an unexpected direction with it — as well as breaking down the rest of the draft such as the risers, the sleepers, and is Michael Porter Jr. worth the risk?
Also, in the bigger picture, are we focused too much on the bigs at the top of this draft — the majority of guys who will go in the top six — when we just saw in the last two rounds of the NBA playoffs that a lot of bigs can’t stay on the court in those situations? Which of these draftees can?
As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.
The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.
Is a coaching change enough to fix them?
Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.
So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.
Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.
All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.
Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.
But what about more marginal first-round prospects?
The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.
The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):
Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.
Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.
Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.
This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.
Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.
Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.
This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.
I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.
Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.
Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.
Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.