The Philadelphia 76ers Need to Get Better at the Free-Throw Line


Friday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls was the Philadelphia 76ers’ best chance at a win so far this season. The 76ers went on a huge fourth quarter run to come back from being down 92-76, and scored 39 points in the quarter against a stout Bulls defense. However, the Sixers came up short, losing 118-115. A major reason the team came up short? The 76ers missed 5-of-12 free throws down the stretch, leaving five points on the table in a tight game, and it came back to haunt them.

Free throw shooting woes have been a theme through the first six games for the 76ers. The Sixers are dead last in the league in free-throw percentage, converting an abysmal 64.7 percent from the charity stripe. This was a huge issue last year for Philadelphia, as they finished 29th in the league with a 71 percent mark. So far through this season, the problem has gotten worse. If the Sixers hit free-throws at this percentage for the full season, it would be the lowest team free throw percentage for a full season since the 1967-68 76ers shot 63.5 percent from the line.

That low of a free-throw shooting mark is problematic by itself, but it’s compounded by the 76ers focus on getting to the line. Philadelphia is currently ranked 11th in free throws attempted, averaging almost 25 attempts per game, and their free throw rate of 30.8 percent is good for 12th in the league.

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The 76ers like to focus on getting the ball to the rim, and then finding open shooters off of that; that strategy also focuses on drawing contact and getting to the line a healthy amount. It’s a particularly important part of the offensive game for guys like Tony Wroten, K.J. McDaniels, and Alexey Shved, all of whom have FTr’s over 30 percent. Shved is actually productive with this strategy as the Sixers’ best free throw shooter (84.6 percent). However, Wroten (62.7 percent) and McDaniels (53.8 percent) are both horrific shooters from the line, which negates their strong ability to draw contact. Wroten in particular needs to improve from the stripe, because he’s taking 8.5 attempts per game, currently sixth in the league.

That’s why the 76ers just have to start making more free throws. You can’t just say, “Well, they aren’t hitting them, so they should take less,” because getting to the rim is such a huge part of the offense, especially with Michael Carter-Williams out. When he returns to the lineup, he could help, as he hit 70.3 percent from the line last year. However, we have no idea what impact his shoulder surgery and rehab will have on his already inconsistent shooting form.

If improvement is in order, it’s likely to come from more consistency from McDaniels and Wroten, the latter of whom has a bad track record at the line but has actually done pretty well in the last three games, shooting 15-21 after starting the season 17-30. Nerlens Noel is also a work in progress, but odds are he’s better than a 33 percent shooter from the stripe. However, even that might not be enough to pull the Sixers into being even close to a good free-throw shooting team. A move from “historically awful” to just “below league average” is a start, but this is probably going to be an issue for this team throughout the season.

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