The silence of the whistles can be deadly.
by Clay Kallam
Topic: Getting to the free-throw line (or not)
Why it matters: Not only do free throws generate points for the player and team, they also have a major impact on the game. First, getting an individual player in foul trouble can change a game—obviously, Sylvia Fowles sitting behind Pokey Chatman with three first-half fouls is a lot less dangerous to the opposition than having her on the court scoring, rebounding and blocking shots. Equally important, though, is the team-foul count: Every foul drawn gets a WNBA team that much closer to shooting free throws on common fouls, and since most teams shoot around 75 percent, getting into bonus earlier rather than later can generate 5-10 points a game.
Who does it best: Angel McCoughtry may pout a lot, but she also gets to the line. In 510 minutes, she’s attempted 149 free throws, which means for every 3.4 minutes she’s on the court, she takes a free throw. Again, not only are those points for her, they also impact the game in other ways.
1. Angel McCoughtry – 3.4 (one foul shot for every 3.4 minutes of playing time)
2. Liz Cambage – 4.0
3. Nakia Sanford – 4.2
So two post players who may not light up the scoreboard are, if nothing else, playing tough. And it makes sense that post players should get fouled more, which makes McCoughtry’s outlier of a number even more impressive.
4. Diana Taurasi – 4.4
5. Renee Montgomery – 5.7
A pair of UConn guards, one expected and one a surprise. Who would have thought Renee Montgomery plays more physically than Lindsay Whalen?
6. Sylvia Fowles – 5.8
7. Sophia Young – 6.1
8. Danielle Adams – 6.2
The one-two combo of Adams and Young help the Silverstars get to the line, where they shoot 78.2 percent.
9. Swin Cash – 6.8
10. Courtney Paris – 6.8
Four of the top 10 are post players, three are forwards (Cash, Adams and Young), two are wings (Taurasi and McCoughtry) and one is a point guard (Montgomery).
Who does it worst: These players are hidden killers on a team. Their numbers may OK, but they are deadly to an offense because they don’t penetrate, or if they do, they shy away from contact. Small guards can be somewhat excused, but when post players like Alison Bales and Ruth Riley never get to the line, there’s a problem.
1. Leilani Mitchell – 69.3 (one free-throw attempt every 69.3 minutes
This number is pretty much off the charts, even though Mitchell is small. Shannon Bobbitt’s small too, but she finds a way to shoot some free throws (one every 14.9 minutes). An incredible number, really…
2. Ashley Robinson – 45.5
In its own way, this is equally stunning. Robinson has attempted eight free throws in 364 minutes, and it’s not like she’s shooting elbow jumpers. She must be working to avoid contact to have shot this few free throws in this many minutes.
3. Roneeka Hodges – 35.8
4. Cathrine Kraayeveld – 35.3
Three-point specialists get somewhat of a pass on this, but Kraayveld is 6-4—shouldn’t she be close to the rim now and again?
5. Nicole Powell – 32.9
Powell has been accused of being soft, but this year is the first she’s really living up to that reputation. Just two years ago, she got to the line every 10.9 minutes, and her career average is 15.4, but this year she is simply not drawing contact. With her and Mitchell both starting, and Kia Vaughn (39 attempts in 627 minutes), the Liberty have a serious offensive weakness that no one ever talks about.
6. Noelle Quinn – 32.4
7. Jennifer Lacy – 31.3
Quinn’s another shooter, but Lacy is supposedly a post player. (And by the way, guard Natasha Lacy gets to the line once every 7.1 minutes – logically, those two numbers should be reversed.)
8. Temeka Johnson – 28.7
9. Jeanette Pohlen – 27.6
Johnson is small, but as long as Mitchell’s in the conversation, she doesn’t look that bad. Pohlen, though, should take this as a message: If she wants to be a starter, she needs to get to the line more than once a game.
10. Alison Bales – 27.1
Hard to believe, really, but again, with Ashley Robinson on the list, she’s got some cover. Other posts who get to line once every 20 minutes or more include Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (25.8) and Riley (21.7).