Part two of an infrequent series:
The purpose of these posts is to assess what makes for good free throw shooting. The NBA's SportVU system tracks the position of the ball in all three dimensions. I have taken that raw, often messy data and organized it using some freshman level physics. From that simple model, I have created a whole host of new descriptive statistics on player shooting mechanics.
In my first deep dive, I examined how vertical release angle (i.e. high arc, low arc) correlates with free throw success. As it turns out, there is little correlation between the arc of a player's typical shot and their accuracy. For every "high arc" sharpshooter like Stephen Curry, you have equally successful "low arc" shooters like Kyle Korver; or spectacularly unsuccessful high arc shooters like Andre Drummond. I did find a (unsurprising) correlation between consistency in release angle and free throw percentage.
In this post, we will shift focus from the vertical axis to the horizontal. Where do players typically "spot up" from the free throw line, and how important is it to pick a consistent spot?
We'll start with where players tend to release their free throw shot. For all the analysis below, I am using SportVU data going back to the 2013-14 NBA season and ending, sadly, on January 23, 2016 - the date the NBA removed detailed player tracking data from stats.nba.com. Also, I am excluding all games played at the Warriors' Oracle arena. For reasons unknown, the Oracle SportVU data is very messy and its inclusion was skewing player statistics, particularly those related to consistency.
The chart below shows the average release spot for some 326 NBA players (a player needed to have at least 100 free throws in order to be included).
Now that we are oriented, we will zoom in on the rectangular box: