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All Is Not Fine At The Line

Shooting is a lot easier without Josh Smith in the way. Reuters

Michael Redd is stepping up this year, and getting others involved. He still scores a ton, and now he’s averaging career highs in rebounds (5.3) and assists (3.3) too. Of course, we have covered that here once or twice. But this isn't another one of those articles, because there are problems to address, rather than progress to exalt. And so there is one specific area the Bucks must strengthen, but that even Redd's improved all-around game can't help.

What, you ask?

Free-throw shooting.

The Bucks don’t get the line a lot, but they do make more free throws than some pretty good teams like the Spurs, Hornets, Suns, and Raptors.

Then again, those teams all score more points than the Bucks. So they aren’t pressing for easy points, or wins for that matter, as much as the Bucks are.

The striking statistic as it relates to the Bucks and free-throw shooting is this: Redd, who ranks sixth in free-throws made in the NBA, is the only Buck in the top 100 in that category. I found that makes the Bucks one of just three teams in the league to have only one player in the top 100. The others are the Raptors and Timberwolves, who happen to make the fewest free-throws in the NBA.

It's not good to be lumped in with the Timberwolves in any way right now. And while the Raptors don't get to the line, they make up for it by hitting a league-best 43.5 % of their three-pointers. The Bucks on the other hand not only are ineffective at getting to the line, they don't convert from long-range either, ranking 22nd in the league at 34.2 %. This suggests the Bucks are dependent on making two-pointers, and as a guard-oriented team, that means long jumpers much of the time. These problems are compounded by the fact that Bucks' opponents convert on a sizzling 39.1% of their three-pointers.

In summarizing the free-throw issues:

  • Redd is shooting a career-high 89.4 % from the line this year, making 6.8 per game.
  • Yi Jianlian is second in free-throws made per game, with just 2.0.
  • Redd has made 135 free-throws this season.
  • The next four Bucks combined, Yi Jianlian, Andrew Bogut, Mo Williams, and Charlie Villanueva, have made just 137.

There are a couple things going on here. Individually, Yi, Bogut, Williams, and Villanueva are all shooting worse percentages from the line compared to their own numbers from last year. And collectively, they aren't getting there as much.

In the win against the Mavericks that preceded the Bucks losing eight of nine, Redd made 12 free-throws, Yi made five, Bogut made four, and the Bucks made 29 compared to just 10 for the Mavericks. Since then, only one time has someone made more than four free-throws in a game other than Redd: Jake Voskuhl, who made five in the last four minutes of the blowout loss to the Sixers that started the slide.

If the Bucks hope to avoid losing eight of their next nine, they will need some players to get easy points at the line early, so they don't need to cross their fingers and hope desperation threes fall in late.