Numbers Game: Free-Throw Market Realignment
Numbers Game: Free-Throw Market Realignment

This article is part of our Numbers Game series.

While looking at NBA trends, we talked about the impact of the league's new anti Hack-a-Shaq rule, and the signs that it may be working. This week, I want to look into the other side of the free-throw market, the good shooters.

The free-throw market is in disarray, which opens loads of opportunity for managers who have noticed the shifting marketplace.

Shake-up at the top

For many years, free-throw percentage has been dominated by James Harden and Kevin Durant. The two have been head and shoulders above third place – not to mention the rest of the league – for the last five seasons (in Durant's injury-shortened 2014-15 season, Harden stood alone at the top). Last season the gap narrowed, but the story was the same. Since both players were top-five picks throughout that span, a team drafting either knew right away that they were starting with a dominant free-throw shooter and could build their teams accordingly.

Suddenly, there is a massive shake-up at the top. A new super-class has emerged, and it includes none of the old vanguard. Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry are the new top dogs. The gap between fifth-place Curry and sixth-place Gordon Hayward is larger than the gap between Curry and first-place Butler. Harden and Durant have fallen to ninth and 10th in free-throw impact, respectively.

No longer elite picks

This shakeup is massive and has a deep impact on the fantasy landscape. For

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.
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