Posted by: Kingsguru21 | August 16, 2009

A brief(ish) thought about Spencer Hawes FT attempts

Earlier today, on Sactown Royalty, TZ had a post that’s become a fairly common criticism of Shawes throughout the knowledgeable community (of Kings commentators/fans) regarding the low number of F(ree)T(hrow) attempts Shawes has taken.

Despite increased minute’s last season, he only averaged 1.8 FTA(ttempts). That’s low for any C(enter). So, in a fit of thought (and not the other way around), I thought it would be interesting to see how many FT attempts Vlade Divac and Brad Miller had taken. For shits & giggles, I’ll throw in Olden Polynice as well.

Vlade Divac FT attempts (for the years he was in a Kings uniform 99-04): 5.1 FTA (99), 4.1 (99-00), 4.3 (00-01), 4.3 (01-02), 3.1 (02-03), and 3.2 (03-04).

Those are not high numbers. Yet, everyone notices about Spencer’s lack of getting to the line. Onto Brad Miller.

Brad Miller’s FT attempts (FTA) excluding last season cuz he stunk and cuz he was traded: 4.6 (03-04), 5.1 (04-05), 4.3 (05-06), 2.4!!!(06-07), 4.3 (07-08), and (becuz I feel like including it after all) 3.9 (3.6 in Sac and 4.3 in Chicago) for the 08-09 season.

Obviously, what sticks out is the low attempts in the year Musselman coached. But, beyond even that, the point here is that Spencer Hawes has under-achieved in an area in which Kings C’s are around league average at drawing FT’s. That’s a problem. The question is, of what?

Moving on to Olden Polynice.

Olden Polynice’s FTA for the 4 1/2 seasons he was in a Kings uni: In 93-94 (Detroit he averaged 2.5 FTA), he averaged 3.2 attempts, and that averaged to about 2.8 FTA for that season, 2.4 (94-95), 2.5 (95-96), 3.1 (96-97), and 1.6 (97-98).

Spencer Hawes has many more moves than Olden Polynice did. He was a far more competent skilled player than the Opey Dope ever was. So, how is it possible that Shawes only averaged 1.8 FT’s?

Well, I already commented on some of the reason’s in the original thread TZ wrote, but I do think it’s worth exploring a bit deeper than even that.

The first reason is simple: The coaching staff asked him to be everywhere on the court. You’re not going to to draw FT’s shooting 3’s (which Shawes can do), and you’re not very likely to shoot FT’s shooting mid-range J’s (which Shawes can do). This leads to the 2nd problem.

The 2nd reason is also simple: He has too many moves at his disposal. So, as a consequence, he somewhat attempts to make 100 moves when he needs to make 1 strong assertive move. This is a nice problem to have, and I’d rather it be this way than the other way around. (Which is why the NBA is how it is. I’ve digressed, however, mebbe.)

(Note: This is why I love the graphic TZ used of FT attempts to Shot Attempts. It’s so self explanatory, yet, it’s always a great way of defining Kevin Martin’s offensive brilliance and why it’s impossible to replace. The other important point of offensive rebounding is also well explained, too.)

The 3rd reason is not so simple, but I don’t know how much it had anything to do with the Kings, or anything other than Spencer Hawes being 20 for the whole season. He wasn’t as strong then as he probably is now, and it was somewhat a factor as to why it took him too much time to establish position on the block. As a consequence, I think he tried to out-quick players that he couldn’t out-quick or be more athletic than. The interesting point, I think, is that this is fixable by age and work towards getting stronger. (Which he is apparently doing. We will see come training camp.)

The 4th reason (I think) is the most important of all: There is a clearer vision of what this franchise wants from Spencer. He isn’t going to be asked to take four 3 pointers for the first 20 games, than ask to play exclusively down low for 20 games, and then asked to be a hybrid for the next 20, and then anything goes from there on out. Westphal is going to figure out what Shawes can do well from day 1, and what he improves on he improves on from there on out. It’s just that simple. With the franchise becoming more coherent in goals, and that’s makes all the difference to any 21 year old kid, even a mouthy young Republican like Shawes, this is becoming clearer what the franchise will ask Shawes to do. They will probably ask something in the range of 60% of his FGA to be around the basket. They will probably ask that another 30-35% of his shots come in mid-range if they are there. The other 5% will come in three’s. (This is something I’d check the NBA hotspot data over the course of the season if I were you.)

Now an important point that I think is the most salient of them all: Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans are the guys who will be the foul drawers on this team next season. Gee, what a shock that is. This is likely to be so for the foreseeable future as well. (This is, of course, provided the Kings don’t entertain a pointless offer of a role player for a star like Martin. This doesn’t even mention that the most potential value Kevin Martin has, wait for it, is to the Kings.)

Whether Shawes FT attempts go dramatically up (over 6 a game) is beyond the point. I think most of the potential fixes are already there for Shawes to improve this area. One, Westphal is a better coach than Reggie Theus or Kenny Natt. Two, Shawes has gotten stronger. It’s everything else that I think is in question, but, Shawes is still 21 right now, and we need to remember that. While I don’t think his rebound rate will necessarily be better than what it is in this upcoming season (and that absolutely must improve from last season), I do think his FT attempt’s will eventually peak when he’s about 25 years old and can put it all together. Or, that’s my hope anyway.

The truth is, I think, that I think Shawes will end up being that quint-essential non-traditional big man that the Kings have embraced this past decade (Divac, Miller). This is so true to the point that some of his flaws will always be considered in the “what if” category. Just like Miller, especially. (People had more what-if questions with Webber and Stojakovic.) The point, here, though is that if Shawes gets to about the 4-5 FT attempts a game point where his FT’s are a function of better, consistent post moves, offensive rebounding, a coherent offensive game plan, and Shawes simply getting stronger, than that will be his likely peak ability. Drawing FT’s is important, as anybody will tell you, but the Kings in 07-08 drew a ton of FT’s. Drawing FT’s is only a part of the game, and as long as Shawes is doing as much as he can to make opponents pay by making a solid, strong assertive move down low, that’s all you can really ask for. Putting a specific number (like 4-5 FT’s–which is frankly the peak production I think he will hit if all goes well) doesn’t do much, and, even then, it doesn’t even account for the other things Shawes does do. That’s probably the most important point here (even if it didn’t take 1500 words to say that).



  1. Sorry I just got to this one. Really nice work. I think the comparisons to Vlade and B52 are important and enlightening. It shows us that Kings centers haven’t traditionally had a very high number of the FTAs, but that Spencer’s are still far below average.

    I agree with what you’d said over at StR and reiterated here; the consistency will help him. Maturation (both mentally and physically — whoa, sounding like Ailene there for a sec) will help as well.

    • Yep on all counts G. Thanks for stopping by.

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