The Sacramento Kings beat the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday on the road by five points as the defense finally put together a solid performance. It was an encouraging game in a city the Kings hadn't won in in more than a decade.
Throughout the season there has been many fundamental aspects of the game of basketball missing from this Kings team. Effective defense and not turning the ball over are just a few examples. They managed to solve those riddles against the Mavericks Thursday, but couldn't shake the other consistent problem they deal with - free throws. The Kings shot 13-24 (54 percent) and nearly gave the game away late in the fourth quarter because of the free shots clanging off the rim.
The poor showing from the free throw line dropped the Kings season average from the free throw stripe to .721, the worst since the team's 1998-99 campaign (when they averaged .683).
Now, the 1998-99 Kings finished above .500 on the season and made it to the playoffs and the 2008-09 Kings, which finished 6th in the NBA in free throw percentage at .798, won 17 games. So free throw percentages certainly don't have a huge impact on a team's success over the course of a season, but for a team like this current Kings squad, which typically has a lot of problems on a nightly basis, making free throws could serve as a decent Band-Aid from time to time.
There are a few things to consider here, the first being Rajon Rondo is on the team this season and historically he is not a good shooter (though he has been decent) nor free throw shooter, averaging 56 percent from the line. Also, DeMarcus Cousins dominates the free throw attempts, and rightfully so because he is the team's best player and he attacks the paint. Boogie is taking 10.3 free throw attempts a game; Rudy Gay is second on the team with 3.5 (he's shooting 79 percent). Just like lot of things as it relates to the Kings, as Cousins goes so goes the Kings and his free throw percentage is at 71 percent (he averaged 78 percent last season and the team as a whole was 10th best in the league). But Cousins is busy carrying the team on his shoulders on a nightly basis, so you can't put it all on him.
Darren Collison has a career average of 84 percent from the free throw line, but he only tallies 3.1 attempts per game. Marco Belinelli has a career average of 82 percent from the free throw line, but he only averages 2.2 attempts per game this season. Ben McLemore, the team's starting shooting guard, has a career average of 79 percent from the free throw stripe (he's taking 1.5 free throws per game). Omri Casspi is at 64 percent from the free throw line this season with a career average of 67 percent.
Free throws certainly aren't the only thing that is wrong with this team, and the players are the first to say so, but missed free throws - that's free, uncontested shots - are always baffling when it comes to NBA players in general. The Kings have a points per game differential of -2.4 with their opponents while averaging seven missed free throws a game. A couple of more makes from the free throw stripe could go a long way despite the other issues the Kings have.