It’s unusual to have a guard struggle from the line as badly as Rajon Rondo does, especially at the current NBA era. Having point guards do so bad on the free throw line used to be more common 30 years ago and more, with many of the “stars” on this list hardly remembered by the common NBA fans.
We narrowed down the list by restricting the qualifying criteria to at least 2 free throw attempts per game during a career, and players who have played at least 350 NBA games, which means for most players then and now at least five NBA seasons.
In all, 22 players in NBA history who match the criteria have shot less than 70% from the line during their careers, among them hall of famers like K.C. Jones, Andy Phillip and Dick McGuire. Only five of them have played basketball in the new millennium – Rondo, Bonzi Wells, Bos Sura, Sherman Douglas and Ronnie Brewer.
George King – 64.2%
George King is probably more well known as the head coach of Purdue from 1966 to 1972, leading the Boilermakers to the 1969 Final Four and winning the Big Ten championship, but he also has six NBA seasons in his past, finishing with career averages of 10.3 points and 4.8 assists per game. A point guard for the Syracuse Nationals during his first five seasons in the league, his free throw shot in the 1955 NBA finals won the title for the Nationals. He shot 71.2% from the line during his rookie season, but for the rest of his career he hovered around the 61-62% mark.
Jack McMahon – 63.7%
Like King, McMahon turned to coaching after retirement with the Chicago Zephyrs, Cincinnati Royals and San Diego Rockets. As a player, he was in the league for 8 seasons, playing for the Rochester Royals and then the St. Louis Hawks, winning the NBA title in 1958. He finished his career averaging 8.1 points per game, and his best season from the line was him shooting 69.6%. During his final season, he shot a career low of 55.2%.
Al Attles – 63.2%
Attles is mostly known for being the head coach of the Warriors from 1970 to 1983, leading them to the NBA title in 1975. His #16 jersey is retired by the franchise; he played for them from 1960 to 1971, being part of the move from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Attles had a career scoring average of 8.9 points per game. He shot below 60% from the line in four NBA seasons, and at his best (in the 1967-1968 season) he nearly reached 70%, finishing with 69.4%.
Dean Meminger – 62.7%
A big star for Marquette (winning the 1971 NIT tournament and being named a consensus All-American), Meminger’s NBA career wasn’t as impressive. He played only six seasons in the league for the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and the Knicks again. He was a minor part of the Knicks team that won the NBA title in 1973. He averaged 6.1 points per game in his career, shooting at his best a 65.8% from the line.
Rajon Rondo – 62.1%
An NBA champion and a four-time NBA All-Star, Rajon Rondo stands out in today’s game due to his inability to convert shots from the line, which is usually a big man’s “disease.” It’s one thing to be a terrible three-point shooter (24.1%), and he barely even tries. But for a guy who so easily finds himself in the paint, Rondo averages only 2.8 free throw attempts per game, and never finished with more than 64.7% in a season.
Slick Watts – 59.7%
The only player in NBA history to meet the qualifying criteria and shoot less than 60% from the line during his career, Watts played only six seasons in the NBA, the first four with the Supersonics. He led the NBA in assists and steals during his third season (1975-1976), averaging 13 points per game. Later he was traded to the New Orleans Jazz and finished his career in Houston. He averaged 8.9 points and 6.1 assists during his NBA career, and at his worst shot 57.8% from the line.