The Los Angeles Lakers are slowly fixing the underwhelming aspects of their game that denied them a positive record through the first six games of the 2021-22 season. Among them, a familiar issue: free-throw shooting.
L.A. has been among the worst shooting teams from the charity stripe in yet another season. In the last two campaigns, the Lakers owned the third-worst free throw shooting efficiency, 72.9% in 2019-20 and 73.9% in 2020-21.
This year, their accuracy dipped again to 72.9%, good enough for the 23th place in the NBA.
“Yeah, it is an issue,” said head coach Frank Vogel before the 113-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. “We got to make our free throws, that’s the simplest way to put it.
“Obviously you can’t go out and just make guys make their free throws, but you can make them honor their work. And that’s the biggest thing is making sure they’re shooting free throws in practice and particularly when they’re doing their individual work that free throws are a big part of it.
“So we all have to do the best we can. We’re not going to make 60% shooters 90% shooters, but everybody’s got to honor their work and if they honor their work then we’ll get the most out of it.”
The poor free-throw shooting accuracy is just part of the issue. Referees award L.A. way fewer free throws than in the previous two seasons. Los Angeles attempted more than 23 free throws and made at least 17 in each of the last two campaigns.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have averaged 18.4 attempts from the charity stripe, converting 13.4 into points over the first nine games of the current season — raising questions over the team’s aggressiveness in the paint and around the rim.
Vogel added this is something they have been trying to address with the league.
“We want our whole group to get to the line more. We’re sending clips into the league, and I think league-wide there is more of a mindset for play-ons. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I would say that free-throw attempts per game leaguewide are way down compared to the past, and that’s certainly true with our team and to me, the ball movement is the best way to get to the free-throw line. If we’re moving the ball better than we’re moving it, we’ll get there more. But I don’t have specific numbers in mind.”
Vogel expects Anthony Davis’ free throw shooting to pick up in 2021-22
Anthony Davis was among the Lakers who particularly struggled at the free-throw line last season. The 28-year-old All-Star shot 73.8% from the charity stripe, averaging just 5.9 attempts a night.
Davis appeared to have made progress in that second metric during the 2021 preseason. Before Opening Night, Vogel said the forward has the tools to get more free throws for the Lakers every game, but he needs to exert more pressure on rivals in the protected area.
“I just think it’s last year was more of an anomaly and this year he’s returned to playing his style of basketball,” the coach said. “He can get to the line in so many different ways.”
Davis’ free throw attempts rate rose from 5.9 last year to 6.3 over the first six games of this season. However, his free throw shooting accuracy dipped by 0.1% to 73.7%.
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