Andre Drummond is literally THE WORST free throw shooter in NBA history among players who have taken more than 420 attempts from the field. He’s been undeniably awful for five straight seasons at making routine wide-open 15-foot shots. He’s never even shown any incremental improvements at the line, shooting a career-worst 36 percent in his fourth year in the league. But 2018 is a whole new season for Drummond and his 6-3 Pistons team.
Drummond had fans cheering like never before as he made 14 of the 16 free throws he attempted in the Pistons’ 105-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. That’s a career best in makes for a single game, edging out his previous high of 13 makes ... which took THIRTY-SIX attempts.
This game was no fluke for Drummond this season, either. He’s made 28-of-36 on the season (and 16-of-20 in preseason). It looks like this could be sustainable. For the first time ever, Detroit’s center could shoot better than 42 percent from the line — he could even come close to doubling it. Hack-A no more!
It’s hard to describe just how miserable Drummond has been from the line over the past few seasons other than to compare him to Shaquille O’Neal, a notoriously bad free throw shooter and inspiration for the “Hack-A” phrase. Shaq never had a worse free throw shooting season than ANY of Drummond’s five. Drummond has been virtually unplayable at times down the stretch for his inability to put the ball in the hoop from 15 feet away.
But now Drummond’s form has changed, and the ball is finally going in. Nothing drastic has changed in his form, but it’s clear the 7-footer has put a lot of time into improving his numbers from the stripe. This is unprecedented year-over-year improvement.
30 players have qualified for FT% leaderboard and made > 50% of their FTA. Andre Drummond is on pace to have BY FAR the best follow-up FT%. pic.twitter.com/p8vP9nrmp6— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) November 4, 2017
Suddenly, Drummond has become a well above average free throw shooter after opponents spent half a decade focusing their defensive plans on ensuring he got to the line more frequently.
Let’s see why Drummond is in for a career year.
Drummond’s old shooting form was U.G.L.Y.
There’s a lot to hate in the way Drummond used to shoot from the line. He showed little finesse on each hoist, and mostly used his upper body to throw bricks. His knees hardly bent, and most of the release relied on power from his upper body. That explains the amount of clanks off the backboard he’s raked in over the years.
He developed a hitch in his shot, too, which wrecked any potential for a fluid motion. He looked more like a jointless robot than a top-tier athlete.
The sum of all those parts made for a career 39 percent shooter.
But subtle changes have helped him find his way.
Let’s look at Drummond’s new form
Drummond now starts with the ball down lower, closer to his knee as he winds up. That forces him to bend his knees and put lower body strength into his shot. Not only does it just look comfortable for him, but it sets his entire body in motion rather than just his arms — which was the cause of a lot of his bricked attempts.
Lowering his frame at the beginning also got rid of his hitch. He doesn’t cock the ball back before firing anymore. The ball is released at the apex of his wind-up, which is giving his shot more of an arc than he’s ever had.
He’s even getting front-rim rolls because of the spin he’s able to put on the ball now.
What this means for the Pistons
The Pistons are rolling to start the season with wins over multiple playoff teams including the Warriors, Clippers, Timberwolves and now Bucks. Their improvement has little to do with offseason moves — with the only difference-maker there being Avery Bradley — and a lot to do with player development. Tobias Harris appears to be making a leap, and if Drummond can continue this type of free-throw shooting consistency, so should he. Stan Van Gundy should feel no hesitation in adding a larger role for Drummond in his team’s offense, because the possession is no longer useless if Andre steps to the line. He can finally become the efficient rim-rolling big Van Gundy has always wanted.