For as gifted as John Wall is as a player, one of the areas where he’s struggled to maximize his athletic gifts is as a free throw shooter. He shoots a little below what you’d like at the stripe (he’s a career 78.9 percent shooter at the stripe) and he’s never averaged more than 6.2 free throw attempts per game.
This season, Scott Brooks wants to change that, as he laid out to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post:
“I think he should be a high free-throw” shooter, Brooks said, then tossed out a range of seven to 10 free throw attempts per game. “He has the ability. He has the strength, he has the shot-making, the athleticism to get to the rim.
“My job is to challenge him to get up to another level. That’s the challenge and that’s also the fun part of my job to see where I can take him and the team. The better players in the league get easy points at the free throw line and I think he can be a low-to-mid-80s [percentage] free throw shooter also.”
Last season, Wall attempted 4.5 free throws per game, the fewest in his career (in 2014-15, Wall’s average was 4.6). Upon hearing the suggestion that Wall believes he should get to the line more but has not been rewarded by officials, Brooks quipped: “For five years I disagreed with him. Now, I agree.”
Brooks will need to combat some downward trends to turn Wall into a high free-throw shooter. He’s averaged less than five free throws per game in each of the last three seasons, and averaged a career-low 4.5 per game last season.
The good news is Brooks has plenty of experience with players who know how to get to the line. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both became players who were great at drawing fouls and converting at the line under Brooks’ watch. Yes, they both came equipped with plenty of natural talent, but as Wall has shown during his time in Washington, that isn’t always enough if you don’t have the right system around you. Wall should still have plenty of untapped foul drawing ability that Brooks can utilize this season, provided he can get back to full health after surgery this summer.
Asking Wall to make a jump from 4.5 attempts per game to 7 might be asking a bit too much, but even if he can bump it up to 6 per game, that a big win for the Wizards. Just changing one or two possessions per game into efficient trips to the line could pay huge dividends when the Wizards are trying to separate themselves from other teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference.