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The Two Players Killing The NBA’s Free-Throw Percentage

Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan are having an almost unbelievable effect on the league's free-throw rate

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Bricks bad — Getty Images
Feb 10, 2016 at 3:14 PM ET

NBA shooters are having historic success from the free-throw line this season, yet two players, neither of whom could be confused with a shooter, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan, are ruining their peers’ marksmanship.

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The Pistons’ Drummond and the Clippers’ Jordan have been so poor from the charity stripe that they are dragging down the league-wide free-throw percentage by eight percentage points. As of this writing, Drummond is 144-for-412 (.350) from the line and Jordan is 164-for-392 (.418); subtract only those two players from the ledger, and the NBA’s free-throw percentage rises from .756 to .764, which would be a top-10 all-time mark and the second-best of the past quarter-century.

The pair’s notoriously poor free-throw shooting has even helped bring back en vogue the Hack-A-Shaq strategy, so named in honor of its first victim, Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal at his free-throw worst in 2004-05 hit 353-of-765 free throws for a .461 clip, which sagged the league rate four percentage points. In other words, it’s a two-Shaq world now, as Drummond and Jordan are collectively responsible for doubling O’Neal’s negative effect on the league’s free-throw shooting percentage.

With that in mind, teams are happy to foul Jordan and Drummond with impunity and reap the rewards of their free-throw failures. Fans understandably loathe the strategy, which makes games long, choppy, and downright boring. However, a potential solution is on the table as the league announced Tuesday a new penalty for intentionally fouling a player inbounding the ball.

Fouling an inbounding player will now result in a delay-of-game infraction and possible technical foul. Beyond that, commissioner Adam Silver has discussed taking further steps to improve the pace and quality of the game.

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On the flip side, the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are such prodigious three-point shooters that they have raised the league’s long-range conversion rate by two percentage points. The pair playing in the same backcourt for history-making Golden State have made the most threes in the NBA and each is doing so at a top-10 success rate. Curry is 240-for-530 (.453) beyond the arc, and Thompson is 156-for-370 (.422). Thanks to them, the NBA rate has improved from .350 to .352.

Consider this: there are 30 NBA teams, each with 12 active roster spots, for 360 total players—yet it only takes two historically great or awful performers to nudge the league into game-changing territory.