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Dwight Howard is the least of Orlando’s free throw problems

April 12, 2011

The Magic seem to have “flipped the switch”  the last few games and are playing with a lot more energy and effort.  As such, Magic Nation has actually started to focus on the positives heading into the playoffs.  For the most part, I’d say that’s a good thing.  Hope is, well, nice.

As your beards continue to itch and make you look like disheveled hipsters, let’s not lose focus of the flaw-filled reality that we live in.  The Magic are weak in several areas and ignoring them will only add to your frustration moving forward.  The injuries, turnovers, and lack of consistency have all been well documented but another weakness is just as likely to be the fatal fault of the Magic.

Free throw shooting.

As a TEAM, the Magic rank dead last in free-throw percentage and convert only 69% of their FREE throws for the season.  In the 24 games since the All-Star break, that percentage as dropped from 69.45% down to 67.91%. 

It’s no secret that Dwight Howard is an atrocious free-throw shooter and that his low percentage brings down the team average.  Also, Dwight takes a high majority of the team’s free throws and therefore it is expected that the Magic’s team percentage is below average.  For example, Dwight has taken 282 free throws since the All-Star break and the rest of the team has taken 360.

As easy as it may be to blame Dwight, he isn’t the only problem.  Take a look at the free throw shooting numbers for the entire team since the All-Star break and you see some very disturbing numbers.

Player Career Season Post All-Star Post All-Star
Redick 86.6% 87.5% 82.6% 19-23
Bass 82.7% 81.7% 80.2% 69-86
Anderson 83.7% 80.7% 83.7% 36-43
Nelson 80.8% 80.4% 88.0% 44-50
Q Richardson 71.5% 75.0% 56.3% 9-16
Arenas 80.4% 74.4% 82.9% 29-35
J Richardson 71.1% 70.1% 48.4% 15-31
Turkoglu 79.1% 66.1% 59.2% 29-49
Clark 64.2% 60.0% 57.9% 11-19
Howard 59.8% 59.4% 61.7% 174-282
Duhon 78.8% 52.2% 50.0% 4-8

 

Ummm… Not so good.  Please draw your attention to Exhibit’s A and B: Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu.  Their numbers are not just down, they are BELOW Dwight Howard’s numbers for the entire season. 

These are the guys with the ball in their hands in the 4th quarter that the team relies on for clutch baskets.  Is the undersized and turnover prone Jameer Nelson the only player on the team that can be trusted to seal a close game?

Seven of the eleven guys (Malik Allen hasn’t attempted a post All-Star free throw) on the roster have shot worse since the All-Star break than they have for their entire careers and J-Rich and Turk are down over 20 percentage points each.  

Sure, the sample size since the All-Star break is a small one (only 24 games) but  it’s the here and now. You can’t ignore the fact that over the last two months, the Magic have been leaving points on the floor.

As we head into the playoffs and the physical play amplifies, free throw attempts will only go up.  In the playoffs, every possession counts.  At the end of the game the Magic can’t afford to have Hedo to step to the line and flat line two free throws off the back of the rim.

While free throw shooting isn’t the biggest concern moving forward (see: turnovers, energy level), it is without a doubt a legitimate concern.  Bottom line: be ready for a lot of cringing and deep breaths as your Magic men step to the charity stripe.

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