Besides injuries, there are very few issues that occupy the Chicago Bulls this year.
They have great team chemistry, the MVP, a terrific defense and a great bench. Heck, they even have the best record in the NBA.
Yet, despite all the positives, there is one issue that the Bulls need to address in order for them to have a shot at a championship.
While most of the Bulls' team stats lead the NBA in many categories, they rank near the bottom in free throw percentage. And as if being 27th in the NBA in free throw percentage isn't enough, the Bulls inability to make free throws have cost them one or two games this year—including a heart-breaking loss to the Knicks at the Garden when Deng and Rose couldn't hit a free throw to save their lives.
If you're asking what difference does one or two games make, consider that in the playoffs, most games come down to the final baskets and losing one game can change the whole series. The Bulls' measly 72 percent free throw percentage as a team shows that it will be difficult for them to keep up during the game, especially towards the end.
To direct themselves for motivation, the Bulls must look at the last five teams to win an NBA championship.
Every team that has won a championship in the last five years has made over 75 percent of their free throws, with the percentage rarely coming down in the playoffs.
|Year||Team||FT% in Regular Season||FT% in Playoffs|
|2009-2010||Los Angeles Lakers||76%||75%|
|2006-2007||San Antonio Spurs||75%||73%|
It's obvious that, while it's not the only reason, making a good percentage of free throws gives teams advantages that lead to NBA championships.
The 72 percent that they are shooting should be quite worrisome to Tom Thibodeau who is usually a stickler for perfection. I would expect more from him in terms of pushing his team to improve their free throw shooting.
It's unacceptable to have players like Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik having a free throw percentage less than 70 percent.
In fact, Asik is shooting a dismal 47 percent from the charity stripe.
These are guys that will be getting to the line often, possibly in late game situations. For the Bulls to have such a good game only to have it tossed away by poor free throws is almost unbearable to watch.
I know I had a tough time watching Deng and Rose brick four consecutive free throws in New York.
Speaking of New York, they will be a team the Bulls quite possibly will face in the first round of the playoffs. There is no doubt those games will come down to the final points. And when they do, it will be up to the Bulls to make their free throws—sadly, they have shown that they can't be counted on to do it.
So when the Bulls find themselves in Madison Square Garden on the free throw line in a tight game, all we can do is hope and pray that the ball finds the hoop.
Sadly, that seems to be the Bulls strategy anyways.