In this series, we’ll examine each of the Sixers under contract for the 2013-14 season and one aspect of his game he could work on during the offseason.
Thad Young was arguably the most consistently productive player on the 76ers this past season. Young maintained his strong per-minute averages while adjusting to a starting role and playing a career-high 34.6 minutes per game. Any criticism toward Young is bound to sound like nitpicking considering the much bigger problems facing the team. However, one aspect of his game stuck out like a sore thumb all season long: Young shot just 57.4% from the free throw line on the season, far below his previous career-worst mark of 69.1% and the worst among Sixers regulars. This precipitous drop was startling for a player who had entering the season a 72.6% career shooter from the charity stripe.
As you can see in the chart below courtesy of NBA.com Stats, Young’s struggles around the foul line translated during live game action. The zone around the circle was the sole zone within the arc where he was below league average during the season. Fans are very familiar with his prowess on those 18-footers, which are crucial for Young to keep defenders honest and set up his dangerous drive game.
So if Young hits perimeter shots at around a league-average rate, why was he so subpar from that foul line area both during live action and after being fouled? Does he expend so much energy with his hustling style of play that it’s tough to bring his body back down to more of a resting state and drain those free throws? Doubtful, since we’ve seen in the past that Young has the ability to be a solid free throw shooter. It’s also unlikely he was simply more tired with the minutes increase as he also played over 34 minutes per game in 2008-09 and sported a 73.5 free throw percentage that season. Chances are that Young’s poor performance from the line was more a problem of small sample size than anything. The difference between his prior career average of 72.6% and his season mark of 57.4% is only about 28 free throws over the course of the season. Still, it would behoove Young to spend a little extra time practicing at the line during the summer. Maybe he and Jrue could play some knockout.