DeAndre Jordan, before he fouled out by setting an illegal screen with 2 minutes 22 seconds to play in Game 5, was barely noticeable during the game against Oklahoma City Thunder. He took just one shot from the field (a reverse layup early in the first quarter), grabbed just four rebounds and committed two turnovers. But that’s just one game. The 25-year-old center is third on the team in terms of win shares (1.0) and second in the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor (20.9 percent).
Where Jordan has really hurts the Clippers this postseason is at the free throw line.
Free throws are an important aspect of a basketball game. Dean Oliver, in his book Basketball on Paper, went as far to say a team’s ability to get to the free throw line is one of the four most important factors in terms of winning:
I phrase this intentionally as “getting to the foul line,” not “making foul shots” or “free throw percentage” or “free throws.” This is because the biggest aspect of “free throws” is actually attempting them, not making them. Teams that get to the line more are more effective than teams that make a higher percentage of their free throws. Game-by-game exceptions can definitely exist – there are plenty of games that are lost by a team missing its foul shots – but over the long haul, just getting to the line frequently wins a lot more games than missing a few freebies will lose.
Among players with at least 10 games played in these playoffs, none have done a better job at getting to the foul line than Jordan.
It’s not that his free throw percentage is off the mark – he has converted 32 of his 74 chances in the playoffs – it’s that the ones he is missing is contributing to his team’s losses the most.
According to Inpredictable’s Win Probability Added, Jordan has the lowest contribution via free throws.
Sometimes the how is just as important as the how many.