Free Throw Rate – The Fourth Most Important Factor of Basketball Success

In our final #SJICoachesCorner mini-series post, based on analytics guru Dean Oliver’s four factors of basketball success, we consider the fourth, and final factor, free throw rate, the rate at which a team gets to the free throw line.

Is your team getting to the free throw line often enough?

Some coaches will argue that the most important free throw statistic is the percentage of free throws made. While that is certainly an important statistic, a strong argument can be made for the importance of the rate at which a team gets to the line. Drawing fouls on an opponent creates two significant problems for teams, foul trouble and bonus free throws. A team that shoots a high percentage from the free throw line but does not shoot many free throws will not create those problems for teams. Oliver assigns a percentage of importance to this factor of 15%.

The rate at which a team gets to the free throw lane is calculated by dividing the number of free throws attempted by the number of field goals attempted.

Helpful formulas:

  • Regular Free Throw Rate
    • FTR = FTA/FGA 
  • If you want to take into account pace, calculate the rate this way.  
    • FTR = 100*FTA/FGA 

Free throw rate lends itself well to evaluate individual player success at getting to the free throw line. You can use the same formulas while plugging in the individual statistics allowing you to compare how effective your players are at drawing fouls. Here is a chart to get you started.

For example:

X University  523FTA/1726FGA = .31   

Opponents  465FTA/1805FGA = .26

The team has a 5% free throw rate advantage over its opponents which is very good. Although the average rate will vary from level to level, .25 or 25% is a fair average to use.

PlayerA: 133FTA/427FGA = .31      

PlayerB: 65FTA/307 = .21      

PlayerC: 99FTA/134FGA = .74

Players A, B, and C are teammates on X University, A is above average on that team and B is below average and C is outstanding.

We hope you have enjoyed our mini-series on the Four Factors of Basketball success. Although these posts have come to an end, our blog posts certainly haven’t. Stay tuned for more exciting posts throughout the winter and into next year!