NBA Teams Need Free Throws to Go

SportsBook Breakers NBA STUDY: Teams Need Free Throws to Go

In basketball, there is one way to score that is significantly more effective than any other means – getting to the foul line.  And for even poor shooting free throw teams, on the whole going the foul line is more efficient one a per play basis than taking a two or three-point attempt.

There is also a common misperception about going to the free throw line and the fouls that get a team there.  Many NBA fans, and even bettors, just consider drawing fouls to be a mostly random occurrence.  That is not the case at all.  There are some teams, and particularly players, that are very skilled at drawing fouls.  So if drawing fouls and going the line are particularly critical parts of basketball, it would stand to reason that the inability to get to the foul line would have equally negative impact.

No one is disputing that in-game, the ability or inability to get to the free throw line is critical as it relates to the betting result.  Teams that attempt less than 15 free throws in a game win just 37.8% of games.  What is important to bettors is if an inability to get free points has a carryover affect that can span multiple games.  This gets back to the luck vs. skill debate on free throws.

With the powerful SDQL, we can easily determine the impact of going to the free throw line the previous game has on a team in their next game.  To do this we use the p: prefix to signify a team’s game and the shortcut FTA to designate free throw attempts.  By leaving this query open ended, we can look at all results based on the previous free throw attempts.  We list here all performances coming off a game with 12 free throw attempts or fewer.

Previous Free Throws ATS # of Games
1 0-1-0 (-11.00, 0.0%) 1
2 1-0-0 (3.50, 100.0%) 1
3 1-4-0 (-3.30, 20.0%) 5
4 7-7-0 (0.39, 50.0%) 14
5 16-24-0 (-2.98, 40.0%) 40
6 22-37-0 (-0.92, 37.3%) 59
7 45-56-1 (-1.51, 44.6%) 102
8 69-95-3 (-1.12, 42.1%) 167
9 132-130-3 (-0.91, 50.4%) 265
10 212-167-9 (1.60, 55.9%) 388
11 257-232-9 (0.26, 52.6%) 498
12 329-323-5 (0.10, 50.5%) 657

Looking at these results, it is quite clear that there is a strong correlation in the previous free throw attempts and results based on expectations in the next game.  The tipping point is when teams attempted eight or fewer free throws in their last game, these teams are just 161-224-4 ATS.  That is just a 41.8% percentage and these teams have won just 42.2% of the games outright.

Now the proof really comes when looking at these teams free throw attempts next game.  Teams attempts 24.8 free throws in the average game.  In these games, teams attempted just 22.4.  The difference in the free throw scoring of 1.6 free throws made below average makes of the entire margin of the 1.37 points per game these teams have failed to cover by on average.

This is just one of over 100 systems SportsBook Breakers looks at as part of its daily handicapping.  And now, with the new Trend Mart, you can receive daily access to active, must-have systems such as this.  Visit to learn more!


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A handicapper, SDQL-based handicapping led SBB to finish as the #1 NFL on in 2014.

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