Daily Digits is a new daily feature we’re doing at Bullets Forever this year where we take a look at stats about the Wizards. We’ll dive into the numbers, add some context, and discuss how it affects the product on the court.
Today’s stat is Ian Mahinmi’s free throw percentage this preseason, which is...
Mahinmi’s development into a solid 3-point shooter has been remarkable to watch, but what’s been nearly as impressive is how he’s developed into an automatic free throw shooter. He’s 12-for-13 at the charity stripe through his first three preseason games.
His percentage will probably cool off with time, but just the fact that he made 12-of-13 would have seemed impossible when he first came to Washington. He shot 55.5 percent in his previous four seasons with the Pacers and shot 57.3 percent in his first season with the Wizards.
However, the same season the Wizards invested in Mahinmi, they also invested in new virtual reality technology which he was able to use extensively while recovering from the knee issues that derailed his first season in Washington:
To build up his confidence as a shooter, the Wizards used a 360-degree camera to film him making free throws. Then they played the makes on repeat so he could watch himself making free throws over and over in the first-person perspective. Before his daily shooting drills, he put on the VR headset and underwent a session to prime his brain with success -- his own success. Seeing is believing.
”It’s more like building muscle memory, but for your brain,” Mahinmi says. “Kind of like, OK, if you see it, your brain is going to register it. And then, when you shoot live, you’re going to think about it and see yourself shooting and making. You know you can do it.”
I’ll be the first to admit when I first read about the technology, I was skeptical that it would make much of a difference, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Last season, he shot over 70 percent for the first time in a season where he attempted at least 100 free throws, and he’s on pace to blow past that if he can maintain his solid stroke.
Unfortunately, it’s going to be hard for him to top his best mark ever for a season. He was a perfect 9-for-9 at the line in his rookie season with the Spurs. Still, if he can stay within 15-20 percent of that high-water mark, it will be a nice boost for Washington this season.