Free Throw Factor: A Precise Way to Measure the Charity Stripe

Are you get­ting to the line enough? Are you sound enough defen­sive­ly? More coach­es are turn­ing to this stat to fine-tune them­selves at both ends of the floor.

Free Throw Factor: A Precise Way to Measure the Charity Stripe

Are you get­ting to the line enough? Are you sound enough defen­sive­ly? More coach­es are turn­ing to this stat to fine-tune them­selves at both ends of the floor.

Anybody who’s ever watched James Harden maneu­ver around the court, draw­ing con­tact with seem­ing­ly every deft dri­ve to the lane, under­stands how impor­tant it is to be able to goad the oppo­si­tion into fouls. 

Free throws at the end of the game have been mak­ing heroes and vil­lains since this sport began. But the increased empha­sis on get­ting to the line has had a trick­le-down effect on the high school game. Players today need to be aggres­sive when they attack the rim.

That’s why some argue the rate at which a team gets to the line is more impor­tant than how many shots they actu­al­ly make when they get there. Free throw fac­tor, one of the Four Factors, is increas­ing­ly relied upon to mea­sure how much pres­sure scor­ers apply on defenses. 

How It Works

Free throw fac­tor shows you how often a play­er gets to the line when attempt­ing to score.

Using this for­mu­la, and mea­sur­ing it in con­junc­tion with two and three-point field goal per­cent­ages, which play­er in this line­up would you say is the most dan­ger­ous threat at draw­ing con­tact going to the hole?

How Coaches Value It

Is free throw fac­tor the most mis­un­der­stood of the Four Factors?

Some ana­lysts, such as Hoopalytics’ Jay Cipoletti, argue this is actu­al­ly more impor­tant than free throw per­cent­age. He argues increas­ing the vol­ume of free throws attempt­ed with the same rate of makes increas­es your scor­ing more than just improv­ing your rate of makes alone.

Most fouls occur in the paint­ed area. Today’s game has become quite invit­ing for the cel­e­brat­ed drib­ble-dri­ve motion offense, first brought to pop­u­lar­i­ty by John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers. It’s high­ly val­ued for its abil­i­ty to cre­ate scor­ing lanes from the wings through a series of dri­ve-and-kicks. College teams run­ning this style often aim to lead the nation in free throws attempt­ed, and for good reason.

When you have play­ers who are adept at spot­ting up and shoot­ing, carv­ing through traf­fic to find an open team­mate can lead to some on-the-floor vio­la­tions. If you have play­ers who excel at dri­ving, you’ll want to be as down­hill as pos­si­ble. That can increase the amount of three-point plays you con­vert, which will show up in the Four Factors report. 

For teams that pride them­selves on play­ing shut­down defense, mea­sur­ing free throw fac­tor has become how they know how well they’re guard­ing. With today’s offi­ci­at­ing emphases on hand checks, it can be chal­leng­ing to toe that line between play­ing phys­i­cal defense and get­ting in foul trouble. 

That’s super impor­tant for us,” says Imhotep Charter (Pa.) boys bas­ket­ball coach Andre Noble. We want to make more free throws than our oppo­nents take. We feel like when that’s the case, we’re going to win.

It means we’re not let­ting them get in the lane, and that we’re guard­ing with­out foul­ing. So for our­selves, we want to make more free throws than our oppo­nent takes.”

How You Can Use It

Knowing your play­ers’ FTF helps you shape how you want to attack your next oppo­nent. When you’re in a one or two-pos­ses­sion game late, you’re going to want to draw fouls. Looking at this stat through the fil­ter of line­up effi­cien­cies will tell you who to have on the floor in this situation.

Take this chart, for exam­ple. Which line­up are you going to roll out when you need to get to the line late in the game?

Let’s just say it — this stat is huge for scouting. 

Right away, you can see if a cer­tain play­er from your oppo­nent gets to the line a lot. You can pull up the video to see how those fouls are being drawn. Is the play­er a dri­ver? Are they draw­ing con­tact on the way up to a shot from the wing? 

From there, you can look fur­ther to see just how they’re get­ting the foul calls. Does the play­er pull their shoul­der? Do they have a great pump fake, get­ting under­neath your arm and then going up? Usually peo­ple who get to the line have a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent moves. Knowing these details can make for more engag­ing prac­tices lead­ing up to the game.


Free throws might mean the dif­fer­ence between wins and loss­es. And not just at the end of games, but through­out the night. Are you mea­sur­ing enough? 

Hudl Assist ties the data on these fouls direct­ly to video. You don’t have to lift a finger.

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