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DJ’s Free Throw Improvement

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He’s been hitting free throws a lot better this season.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers-Media Day Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

During last night’s comfortable Clippers’ victory, DeAndre Jordan was quiet offensively and scored only six points. Of the six points, two came from free throws as Jordan shot a perfect 2 of 2 from the charity stripe. This put his seasonal free throw percentage at 52.4% (up from 51.5% before the game). While that percentage is far from spectacular, it highlights a drastic change of the better for Jordan. He has attempted 42 free throws In his last seven games and has sunk an impressive 27 of them. That’s 64.29%!

DJ in his career is an abysmal 42.5% free throw shooter. He has only once in his career shot above 50% in a season. That instance was the 2011-2012 season and things were much different. Jordan only attempted a total of 141 free throws that year (in 66 games). That amounted to a meager 2.1 free throw attempts per game. For context, here’s DJ over the last three years and this year:

Overall, DJ has averaged 6.1 free throws a game over the past three seasons (including an absurd eight free throw attempts/game last year). Over these previous three years, DJ shot a horrid 41.9% from the free throw line. Yet this year has changed. With already 103 free throw attempts, DJ has been far more consistent.

So what’s changed? It’s not exactly clear. Jordan has always known that he needs to practice his free throws. Even in 2014 he was already shooting 100 free throws after each practice. His form seems to be the same one he’s always used (as he’s made clear that he will not adapt underhanded free throw shots). Thus it may just be the mental aspect of free throw shooting that held DJ to pitiful 41.9% over his previous three seasons (1,464 attempts).

The benefits of this improvement are of course plentiful. For fans, DJ’s improvement means less hacking by opposing teams (which is important because the Association’s hacking rules are useless). For DJ, success can snowball into more confidence at the free throw line. For the Clippers it means even more grease for their well oiled offensive machine. The Clippers attempt the most free throws per game in the Association (28.4) and make the most free throws per game too (21.5). It accounts for a large portion of their nightly average of 109 points per game (19.72%). So for what ever has been holding DJ back, hopefully he has finally overcome it. This season’s small sample size thus far is a positive sign.