With Tim Duncan retiring, the NBA is one big man short who can actually hit shots from the line. Duncan was never Mark Price, Ray Allen or another free throw sharpshooter, but compared to guys like Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan, he’s god-like from the line.
Duncan is a career 69.6% shooter from the line, and last season was at 70.2%. In 10 of his NBA seasons he shot better than 70%, and once was even 81.7% from the line (2012-2013 season). He shot worse than 60% just once in his career, in 2003-2004, making 59.9% of his shots.
But again, compared to Drummond, Jordan and Howard, that’s incredible. Howard shot 48.9% from the line last season, and is 56.8% for his career, only starting to go under .500 in the last five seasons. Jordan shot 43% from the line last season, and is 42.1% for his career. Only once has he shot better than 50% from the line in a season; he’s shot worse than 40% four times. Drummond, the youngest guy in the group, shot 35.5% from the line last season, and is 38% for his career. His best season? 41.8% from the line. The rest? Under .400.
So what makes Duncan better? His shooting form, as the image above shows. The technique and consistency make him different. He shots in a very different angle compared to what Inpredictable.com calls the Unholy Triumvirate from the Line. His release height is similar to that of Jordan, but he’s consistent in how he released the ball and where he does it from. Just like the horizontal release position difference: Drummond, Howard and Jordan take shots wide from the center, while Duncan, and quite consistently, varies only one inch away from the center when he places his hands to take the shot.
Duncan will be missed in a lot of ways. Elite Free throw shooting among big men is quite a surprising way to remember him by.