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The New York Knick’s toxic relationship with the free-throw line

Gotta hit the freebies.

San Antonio Spurs v New York Knicks Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

A Free-throw.

The Oxford Dictionary interprets this word:

“An unimpeded attempt at a basket (worth one point) awarded to a player following a foul or other infringement.”

The word unimpeded is the key here.

Unfortunately, when the New York Knicks have been at the foul line this season, it has not always looked like an unimpeded attempt.

At the current time of writing, the Knicks sit in the bottom five in free throw percentage this season. This area has continued to be a problem for New York in the last few seasons.

Last season, they shot 76.1 percent from the line. That is better than their current 73.0 percent this season, but still, it was only good enough for 22nd. The Knicks shot the 22nd-worst percentage while also attempting the third-most free throws per game. They had the right idea of being aggressive, but their execution was poor.

In the playoffs, it was even worse. Tom Thibodeau’s team shot 74.6 percent on 26.8 attempts per game. The playoff series loss to the Miami Heat saw them shoot a disappointing 73.8 percent on 28.0 attempts.

2023-24 season:

Once again, the Knicks are near the top of the league in free-throw attempts. This team is physical and can get themselves to the line. The only problem is that if they aren’t hitting their unimpeded attempts, it is an inefficient trip. Pair that with their poor field goal shooting, and there’s a reason they are a bottom-seven-scoring team. New York has been a decent three-point shooting team, placing in the top ten in makes and percentage.

The Good:

Immanuel Quickley is shooting a team-high 89.4 percent on 3.4 attempts per game. Last season, he only hit 203/248 (81.9%) of his attempts. This season, he’s hit 42/47 attempts and should continue to capitalize on them.

Jalen Brunson is knocking down a career-high 87.0 of his free attempts. Brunson is averaging 4.9 FTA, which is down from the 5.8 he averaged last season. The Knicks point guard getting himself to the line more would be beneficial.

RJ Barrett has shown nice improvement at the line this season. Barrett is hitting a career-high 83.3 percent of his attempts. This is up from 74.0 percent last season. The low 80s are good, but preferably, it’d be great to see the Knicks forward around 85 percent or better.

The Bad:

Julius Randle is shooting a career-low 67.0 percent from the line this season. It doesn't help that he’s also leading the Knicks with 6.9 attempts per game. In the 2020–21 season, Randle hit 81.1 percent of his free throws. The last two seasons have seen him shoot 75.6 and 75.7 percent. I’m not sure why his percentages have drastically dropped, but it’s something he needs to figure out.

Mitchell Robinson continues to be downright awful at the foul line. This season, he has only hit 10/26 (38.5%) of his attempts. I get the stigma that he’s not a shooter or an impactful offensive player, but surely he can do better than this. Last season, Mitch hit 59/122 (48.4%) free throws, which is bad, and it’s only gotten worse. Robinson has been excellent on defense this season, but he has to improve from the stripe.

Mitchell’s center counterpart, Isaiah Hartenstein, isn’t shooting it well either. Hartenstein has hit 15/23 (65.2%) attempts. The two Knicks centers have combined to shoot 25/49 (51.0%) from the line this season.

Guard Donte DiVincenzo has attempted 14 foul shots and made nine of them. That comes out to 64.3 percent. Being 9/14 might not sound too bad, but stretch that out throughout a season and it won’t look good. In the last two seasons, he has shot over 81.0 percent, so he likely will improve his percentage as the season progresses.

Josh Hart is only 5/7 (71.4%) from the line but is a career 74.1 percent shooter.

Free throws are important and will be important for a Knicks team that doesn’t shoot a great percentage from the floor. There are improvements to be made, and I will check back in on this around the All-Star break. Hopefully, we will see some better results.

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