The Old School OKC Thunder

What made the Utah Jazz teams of John Stockton and Karl Malone so great?  They were consistently fouled a lot and converted a high percentage of their free throws.

Observe the highest singles season team Free Throws/Field Goal Attempts in the 3-point era:

Team

Opponent

Rk

Season

Tm

W-L%

FT/FGA

FT/FGA

1

1997-98

UTA*

.756

0.334

0.271

2

1984-85

PHI*

.707

0.331

0.259

3

1989-90

GSW

.451

0.321

0.253

4

1998-99

UTA*

.740

0.320

0.242

5

1988-89

UTA*

.622

0.320

0.246

6

1986-87

POR*

.598

0.313

0.265

7

1981-82

DEN*

.561

0.310

0.213

8

1987-88

PHI

.439

0.308

0.232

9

1994-95

UTA*

.732

0.306

0.292

The Jazz own 4 of the 9 highest free throw rates during the 3-point era.  Karl Malone himself made more free throws than anyone in NBA history.  The Mailman led the league in FTM a record eight seasons.  Former Jazz teammate Adrian Dantley is second on this list.  A.D. led the NBA in FTM five times.

All these made free throws were what really helped Jerry Sloan‘s team win all those games.  Utah posted winning percentages of at least 62% each of the four super free throw seasons.

There has been a general decline in free throw rates since the late 90’s.  Here are the highest FTM/FGA rates since the 1999 Jazz:

Team

Opponent

Rk

Season

Tm

W-L%

FT/FGA

FT/FGA

1

2005-06

NYK

.280

0.303

0.294

2

2010-11

OKC*

.671

0.299

0.228

3

1999-00

DET*

.512

0.295

0.249

4

2001-02

UTA*

.537

0.291

0.286

5

2008-09

DEN*

.659

0.290

0.259

6

2009-10

DEN*

.646

0.290

0.251

7

2006-07

SAC

.402

0.289

0.240

8

2012-13

OKC

.742

0.286

0.201

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original TableGenerated 3/16/2013.

Notice the massive differentials in free throws the Oklahoma City Thunder have been taking advantage of two of the last three seasons.  Kevin Durant is leading the league in made free throws for the 4th straight season.  Teammate Russell Westbrook has ranked in the top-5 NBA wide in free throws made three years running.

The 2013 version of the Thunder are shooting a sparkling 83% from the foul line.  Only the 1990 Boston Celtics and 2003 Dallas Mavericks have shot 83% for a full season in the history of the NBA.

One last random note.  The team with the highest FT/FGA since the turn of the century is Larry Brown‘s terrible ’06 Knickerbocker team.  They were the worst team in the eastern conference despite having an awesome free throw rate.  Center Eddy Curry led the team in free throws and posted a superb .514 FT/FGA rate.  Among NBA players in 2006 Curry ranked 29th in free throws made but 129th in field goal attempts.  That’s getting to the line!

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