It’s the summer, so there are a lot of stories percolating which would normally be ignored during the nightly games of a regular season. Instead, we’re left to ponder all sorts of bizarre items, like the supposition Andre Drummond would improve on the 37 percent free throw mark of his rookie season if he shot them underhand instead of the traditional way he’s employed so far with little to show for his efforts.
This was the reasoning behind Ethan Sherwood-Strauss’ open letter to Drummond for ESPN. He thinks Drummond is the perfect player to try the underhand free throw. The reasoning is that Andre is just kooky enough so that he could own the more uncomfortable aspects of shooting a free throw in a non-traditional way.
Drummond was not enthusiastic about the proposition, and even tweeted so.
Let me make this clear…. I'm not shooting free throws underhand.. #Relax
— Andre Drummond (@DRE_DRUMMOND_) August 17, 2013
Then he blocked Strauss from following him on Twitter.
Well, that certainly went well. pic.twitter.com/RhXCZkxGat
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) August 17, 2013
Drummond — as most Pistons fans already know — shot a laughable 37.1 percent at the line last season. It was the only black mark on a rookie season that’s got pretty much everyone excited for his follow-up after the additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this summer. But between Drummond’s surprising rookie campaign that saw him shatter pre-draft conceptions of his motor with every high-intensity dunk and stuff, were those pesky foul shots.
This obviously isn’t the first time a large center has struggled with a shot that most grade schoolers can hit at least half of the time. Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain are the two biggest names since they’re both Hall of Fame players who won titles and dominated on the block, but who also couldn’t make half of their free throws. There are other, lesser-known, players who have struggled as well, like Chris Dudley, but for the most part people point to Shaq and Wilt as the prime examples of players who struggled with such a basic component of the game, and who, like Strauss writes, may have helped their teams win more games if they’d been able to shoot them near the league average.
Shaq couldn’t handle it because he thought the form looked goofy. Though O’Neal was an all-timer, his teams lost games in eight playoff series in which average free throw shooting from O’Neal would have made up the difference. Imagine how great Shaq would have been had he succeeded with the underhand style. With, say, 80 percent free throw shooting from the line, Shaq easily could have been the best player ever.
It’s hard to argue against the numbers — though we’re not sure “Shaq easily could have been the best player ever” had he shot better from the line — but what Strauss forgets to remember is Drummond’s age, and the insecurity that age brings. He’s also forgetting to look at how many players have adopted the underhand style since Rick Barry shot around 90 percent from the line with the underhand style: none. No one of merit has ever done so since Barry.
There’s a reason too, and it’s even more relevant in today’s Instagram/Twitter NBA.