2017-18 NBA season has free throw stat fans have never seen before
The game is truly changing in front of our very eyes. As a Reddit user (Zehahahahahaha) pointed out, the 2017-18 NBA season is on pace to break the record for the least amount of free throws attempted in NBA history.
As of the All-Star break, teams in the league average only 21.8 free throw attempts per game. These numbers are down from 23.1 free throw attempts last season and 0.4 attempts over the 2012-13 season, which stands in second place.
The decrease in free throw attempts appears to be correlated with an increase in three-point shot attempts. The logic is: if players attempt more threes, then they attempt fewer shots closer to the basket. Fouls are more often committed during driving layups or mid-range shots. Is it a coincidence that this season, the lowest in free throw attempts per game in history, is also the highest in three-point shot attempts in history?
A 0.196 ratio in free throw attempts per field goal attempt this season is also an all-time low. But still, teams have the third-highest free throw percentage in league history this year (76.9 percent), with the best mark being last season (77.2 percent). How much lower would the average be if players like James Harden (9.9 free throw attempts per game) or Giannis Antetokounmpo (9.1 free throw attempts per game) did not drive relentlessly and draw as much contact?
Another aspect that could have contributed to this decrease is the new rules on Hack-A-Shaq techniques. While these instances were not significant enough to prove to be a decisive factor on the difference in numbers, one has to take them into account. With teams being penalized for consistently fouling bad free throw shooters, there is much less of an incentive to use the Hack-A-Player method, thus reducing the number of free throws in games.
At the end of the day, this is a positive step moving forward for the NBA. The league office has taken a number of measures focused on improving the flow of the game, and a reduced amount of free throw attempts helps meet this purpose.