Are Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the NBA’s famous person foul-chasers immediately in hassle?


When Carmelo Anthony was ejected from Sunday’s Oklahoma City Thunder loss in Portland for elbowing Blazers middle Jusuf Nurkic within the face whereas driving to the basket — a play that was known as a capturing foul on Nurkic earlier than being overturned by replay evaluate — it brought about the Thunder’s frustration with referees to boil over.

Asked about Russell Westbrook’s 2-for-7 capturing from the free throw line, Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan as an alternative took the chance to vent about his group’s free throw differential.

“What’s more concerning to me is our opponents have gotten to the free throw line 50 more times than we have,” Donovan mentioned. “And we’ve got a player in Russell who clearly, historically in this league, has gotten to the free throw line as much or if not more than anybody else in this league.”

“We haven’t been getting the benefit,” Paul George mentioned. “Every night, we haven’t been getting the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know what it is, especially for Russ. He attacks the basket, and so many of his plays at the rim are questionable, and he’s not getting the benefit of the doubt.”

Those complaints value Donovan and George $15,000 every in fines introduced by the NBA on Wednesday, together with one among that quantity for Westbrook. But do the Thunder have a professional gripe?

Fewer free throws for greatest at drawing fouls

Last season, Westbrook averaged 10.four free throw makes an attempt per sport, second within the league behind former teammate James Harden of the Houston Rockets (10.9). Both gamers have seen their makes an attempt decline dramatically this season. Harden is right down to 7.9 makes an attempt per sport, whereas Westbrook’s 5.6 characterize a drop of greater than 40 p.c.

Even after we account for Westbrook’s decreased position within the Oklahoma City offense, the proportion of his performs (shot makes an attempt, journeys to the free throw line or turnovers) which have resulted in free throws is down considerably. That offers him one thing in widespread with most different gamers who averaged at the very least six free throw makes an attempt per sport in 2016-17.

Free throw try share, 2016-17 FT leaders

Player Team FTA/G 16-17 17-18 Change
James Harden HOU 10.9 Zero.163 Zero.120 -Zero.042
Russell Westbrook OKC 10.four Zero.134 Zero.098 -Zero.036
DeMarcus Cousins NOP 9.three Zero.148 Zero.132 -Zero.Zero16
Jimmy Butler CHI/MIN eight.9 Zero.174 Zero.119 -Zero.055
DeMar DeRozan TOR eight.7 Zero.142 Zero.162 Zero.021
Anthony Davis NOP eight.6 Zero.143 Zero.161 Zero.Zero18
Joel Embiid PHI 7.9 Zero.164 Zero.106 -Zero.058
Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL 7.7 Zero.153 Zero.124 -Zero.029
Damian Lillard POR 7.three Zero.125 Zero.142 Zero.Zero17
LeBron James CLE 7.2 Zero.124 Zero.097 -Zero.Zero28
Eric Bledsoe PHX 6.9 Zero.138 Zero.110 -Zero.Zero28
Blake Griffin LAC 6.9 Zero.143 Zero.153 Zero.Zero10
John Wall WAS 6.eight Zero.117 Zero.160 Zero.043
Andrew Wiggins MIN 6.6 Zero.119 Zero.130 Zero.Zero11
Kevin Durant GSW 6.2 Zero.127 Zero.103 -Zero.024
Danilo Gallinari DEN/LAC 6.1 Zero.170 Zero.091 -Zero.079
Kyle Lowry TOR 6.1 Zero.128 Zero.053 -Zero.075
Through Tuesday’s video games

Beyond Harden and Westbrook, seven different gamers have seen their share of performs ending on the free throw line decline by at the very least three share factors within the early portion of 2017-18. While a few of these might be defined by position modifications (Jimmy Butler and Danilo Gallinari, for instance, are spending extra time in catch-and-shoot conditions with new groups, as Kyle Lowry is regardless of staying put in Toronto), that is inadequate to clarify the entire drop-offs.

Certainly, some regression to the imply must be anticipated for the leaders in any clbad, notably over the small pattern measurement of the season’s first 10 video games or so. But this decline is way bigger than an identical group noticed over the primary 10 video games of 2016-17. Then, the highest 20 gamers in free throw makes an attempt per sport the earlier season noticed their free throw try fee fall by Zero.6 share factors — lower than a 3rd as a lot as the two.1 percentage-point decline to this point for 2016-17 free throw try leaders.

With Harden and Westbrook joined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, it is a change that has affected among the NBA’s largest names.

Westbrook’s trigger free of charge throw decline is exclusive

This season’s emphasis on officiate continuation and call on leap pictures is an apparent rationalization for the drop in stars’ free throw charges. Before coaching camp, the NBA’s “points of education” clarified leap shot ought to lead to a capturing foul provided that the participant had begun the upward movement to shoot by the point the foul was known as. (On a drive a participant should solely have gathered to shoot earlier than unlawful contact for a capturing foul.)

The change has been colloquially known as “the Harden rule,” and certainly it seems to have value him most of the free throws he acquired final season. Per, Harden has drawn six three-shot fouls in 11 video games after benefiting from a league-high 122 of them in 2016-17. That distinction alone would account for two.eight free throw makes an attempt per sport, almost all of Harden’s decline. (Of course, among the fouls Harden attracts past the arc will nonetheless lead to two free throws if the Rockets are within the bonus.)

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However, the three-shot foul was by no means such an enormous a part of Westbrook’s arsenal. He had simply 28 final season, in line with, so this season’s complete of two would not characterize a considerable change. That accounts for lower than half a free throw per sport, once more baduming not one of the non-shooting fouls lead to free throws.

Instead, as George noticed, Westbrook is drawing fewer fouls when he drives to the basket. According to information offered by Second Spectrum, 10.9 p.c of Westbrook’s drives final season resulted in capturing fouls. This yr, that is down by almost half to eight.Zero p.c of his drives.

That change cannot essentially be attributed to a distinct commonplace for continuation — the leaguewide capturing foul fee on drives has elevated from 10.2 p.c to 11.1 p.c, through Second Spectrum information. And the capturing foul fee on drives for the group of gamers who averaged at the very least six free throw makes an attempt per sport final season has really elevated by the identical quantity.

Intriguingly, one thing related is true of George, whose fee of capturing fouls on drives has dropped from 12.three p.c to six.1 p.c in line with information offered by Second Spectrum. (Anthony, in contrast, has seen his capturing foul fee on drives improve from 13.5 p.c to 18.2 p.c through Second Spectrum information. His decline in free throw fee can largely be attributed to having the ball in his fingers much less regularly.)

Ultimately, we’re speaking a couple of handful of calls over the season’s first 9 video games, so odds are the reason is generally random probability. (Based on final yr’s fee of capturing fouls drawn, you’d count on Westbrook to have drawn 14 of them on drives to this point this season. He’s really drawn 10.) But it is comprehensible these lacking calls can be irritating to an Oklahoma City group that’s nonetheless working to construct chemistry after including Anthony and George.

All six of the Thunder’s losses have come by single digits, three of them by 4 factors or fewer. Westbrook getting again to the free throw line as usually as he did final season is perhaps sufficient to show a few of these shut losses into Oklahoma City wins.

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