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Revisiting the Sixers Foul Shooting Woes

Diagramming "a play".
Diagramming "a play".

Two months ago, when the Sixers were still sporting a .720 winning percentage and most people didn't know what a Katniss was, I wrote an article about the historically low rate at which the Sixers get to the free throw line. This was a warning that things may not continue going as they seem. Low free throw rates portend future failure because, as it has turned out, eventually the 22-footers stop falling.

The Sixers this season have attempted 474 foul shots in 25 games for an average of 18.96 per outing. That only puts them 26th in the league. What the Sixers are doing - shooting an abysmally low amount of foul shots, yet winning almost three-quarters of their games - is unprecedented in basketball history. Yes, they're a terrific defensive team, and yes, they're taking care of the basketball at an equally-historic rate, but if they don't get to the line more often, they will not get far into the postseason. In the more immediate sense, those numbers indicate that the rate at which the Sixers are winning is unsustainable.

So let's look at it again now, with graph help from our friends at Sportsnetics after the jump.


The Sixers currently average 17.8 free throws attempted per game. That would be THE FEWEST ATTEMPTS PER GAME IN THE MODERN ERA. B/R only goes back to the 1946-47 season, but considering no season outside of this millennium is even in the top 8, I'm pretty sure this is history. They'd overtake the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns for the distinction - that team had the 7 Seconds or Less D'Antoni coaching them, and had one of the most unique offenses in recent memory.

Strangely enough, three other teams this season are also under 20 free throw attempts per game - the Warriors, Celtics, and Rockets. All of whom are better outside shooting teams than the Sixers.

What we were concerned would be an issue has become a huge issue. They don't have guys that can draw contact, and coach Doug Collins doesn't make taking the ball to the rim a priority, so they find themselves taking the fewest shots at the rim and the most jumpers from 10-23 feet in the NBA (36.4 compared to the 2nd-highest Charlotte Bobcats at 35.3 per game).

It's hilariously obvious why this team is inconsistent. Anyway, woo playoffs and whatever.

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