I've been thinking about free-throw shooting a lot recently. How important is free-throw shooting? Is it more important to aspire to shoot a higher percentage or to get more attempts? A recent NY Times Freakonomics article which studied the NCAA and the NBA, men and women, showed that free-throw percentage had not changed in 50 years and provocatively concluded that there was no correlation between free-throw shooting percentage and winning percentage. I did some research and found this article which analyzed Duke as a team, and found that free throw shooting was the most efficient way for most teams to score.

So what does it all mean as a coach? I think it means that getting to the free-throw line is important. But there is a caveat, referees call fouls, so the number of times your team actually gets to shoot free-throws may not be entirely up to your control (that may explain why Duke has such a high FTA/FG ratio). But it also means that while we all want our players to shoot a good percentage from the line, spending an exorbitant amount of time in practice shooting free-throws may not be the best use of practice time (outside of normal shooting drills). It means that it is less important to be a "good free-throw shooting team," than it is to have the right players in situations when free-throws need to be made (ie. at the end of games to protect a lead).