The exhibition season is all about improving. It gives each team a chance to experiment with different lineup combinations, try new offensive and defensive sets, and helps players shake off the rust from the off-season in a game atmosphere with no consequences in the regular season win-loss column.
That being said, the Blazers free-throw shooting in the 2013 exhibition season has been awful. Before last night’s exhibition game against the Utah Jazz, the Blazers, as a team, were shooting 72 percent from the line. They were even worse last night, starting off the game shooting 5 of 13 at the stripe before finishing 19 0f 31, for a team free throw percentage of 61. That percentage would have been even worse if it wasn’t for Damian Lillard, who made all ten of his free throws and is 22 of 25 in four exhibition games this year. Is this a cause for concern this year? Not likely.
Last year, the Blazers were 78 percent from the charity stripe, which was good for 6th in the league (tied with Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans). All four returning starters were highly effective at the line with Batum leading the way at 85 percent, Lillard second at 84 percent, then Aldridge at 81 percent, and Matthews at 80 percent. Take away last years starting center, JJ Hickson’s 67 percent, and add new starting center, Robin Lopez’s career best 78 percent while with New Orleans last year, and the starting lineup should be even more potent at the line. The bench should be better at free throws as well, with the addition of Dorell Wright (career 81%), and Mo Williams (career 86%).
All of these conditions should lead to the Blazers exceeding last year’s team free throw percentage.