In their past two losses to Chicago and Orlando, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard made more free throws (25) than the Wizards attempted (22). Overall, the Bulls and Magic attempted 70 shots from the foul line, made 54, and defeated the Wizards by a combined 16 points. The dramatic disparity forced Wizards owner Ted Leonsis to take NBA officials to task for how his team is being treated.
“As a young team; we have not yet established a relationship with the officials; they seem to blow the whistle with abandon on our team; I can see how disheartening it is at times on our players,” Leonsis wrote on his blog, Ted’s Take.
Coach Randy Wittman complained about the lack of respect for his team after the Wizards’ 109-103 loss in Orlando, where the Magic took 39 free throws, the Wizards attempted nine and John Wall failed to make a trip to the foul line for only the second time this season. “We got nine guys on their rookie contracts. Right now they’re not getting the respect. That’ll come. If we keep playing as hard as we play night in, night out, we’ll eventually get calls.”
Rashard Lewis tried to avoid getting into trouble with any controversial comments but said, “The calls didn’t go our way. It just shows on paper.”
But paper doesn’t exactly capture the problem for the Wizards. The free throw disadvantage is an oversimplification of the situation for the team. Wall is the only player on the team who consistently drives to the basket, which is why he ranks 12th in the league, averaging six free throw attempts per game.
Nick Young is second in free throw attempts, but he draws a number of fouls while taking long jumpers (he even got fouled while shooting a three-pointer in Orlando). The Wizards don’t have a low post threat, with JaVale McGee getting most of his baskets on dunks and sweeping hook shots. And, as Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner pointed out, the Wizards are seventh in the league in attempts between 16 feet and 23 feet (23.4 a game).
In the games against Chicago and Orlando, the Wizards were much more aggressive on defense than offense – and Howard and Rose both live on the foul line. Howard ranks first with an average of 12.2 free throw attempts. He set an NBA record 39 free throws by himself in a win over Golden State earlier this season. Rose is ninth in free throw attempts at 6.6 per game.
“The last two games – the disparity in free throw attempts have been too hard to overcome; both Chicago and Orlando have former MVP players on their teams; they command respect; we have a lot of work to do to get some respect back from officials, but I am confident it too will come with time,” Leonsis wrote.
But even with the past two games, the Wizards are only committing less than four more fouls per game than their opponents (21.5 to 17.9) and attempting about five fewer free throws per game than their opponents (20.4 to 25.2). Having five more free throw attempts per game probably wouldn’t dramatically change the fact that the Wizards have been outscored by an average of 9.3 points per game, the fourth-worst differential in the league.