When Tom Thibodeau said that Derrick Rose was being victimized by the NBA referees for being a “nice guy” (in reference to his low free throw count), I had my doubts. I mean, LeBron James is one of the nicest guys in the NBA, so why doesn’t he get victimized as well?
I went straight to the numbers to see if it supported Thibodeau or not.
The basic numbers: According to NBA.com’s Player Tracking Data, Rose has 18 drives this season. On those drives, he’s scored 10 points and is shooting 25 percent on them. Technically, he’s had the opportunity to score 36 points off those drives – if he shot 100 percent on them. He’s also averaging 3.0 free throw makes on 3.3 attempts.
Rose is averaging 14.3 points per game and 20.9 percent of that comes from his 3 free throw makes per game. So, basically, the number that we need to keep in mind is that 20.9 percent.
WHAT DO HIS PAST STATS SAY?
During his 2011-12 season, Rose averaged 21.8 points per game, 5.0 free throw makes on 6.1 attempts per game. Of those 21.8 points per game, 22.9 percent of them came from his free throws.
In 2010-2011, he averaged 25 points per game, 5.9 free throw makes on 6.9 free throw attempts. 23.6 percent of his points came from his free throw makes.
So is 20.9 percent that big of a difference from 23.6? Probably not. Especially when we factor in the sample-size for this season (3 games). Plus, Rose is averaging about six points less than his career average. He’s not himself yet. He’s a little hesitant (at times) and is lacking some feel (awareness) to the game right now.
But where is Rose’s shot frequency coming from? Well, in 2011-12 44.32 percent of his shots came in or around the restricted area. Exhibit A:
This season, he’s shooting a little over 55 percent of his shots from that same area. Again, note the small samples size. But even then, shouldn’t his percentage of points stemming from free throw makes be higher simply because he’s shooting a higher shot frequency from the restricted area (where most players are more likely to get fouled)? Probably. However, that’s when the fact that he’s only averaging 14 points per game comes into play. Like I said, he’s only shooting 25 percent on his drives. That’s like, bad. He’s shooting worse on his drives that Mario Chalmers (27 percent) and Tony Wroten (33 percent). Perspective.
Dwyane Wade, who has driven into the lane 17 times this season, is averaging 8.0 free throw attempts per game, on 17 drives Damian Lillard is averaging 6.3 free throw attempts and Eric Gordon, 19 drives, averages 5.0 free throw attempts per game. Wait, what?
Question mark? Maybe.
But then again, who’s to say that there’s a direct correlation between drive attempts and free throw attempts? Usually, you get the most calls off the drive, though, when you’re aggressive. Still, all this information has to be taken with a grain of salt. Mostly because of this season’s sample size.
This will be something to re-visit in the future. I still have my doubts about Thibodeau’s comments, though. I’m not sure Rose is being punished because he’s nice. I just think that Rose is still trying to feel himself back into form. He’s only about a five free throw attempts per game guy, so 3.3 isn’t that far off when you take into account sample size.