Cavs FT shooting should improve considerably sans Andre Drummond

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talks to Cleveland big Andre Drummond in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talks to Cleveland big Andre Drummond in-game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Prior to Sunday night’s loss at the LA Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers big man Andre Drummond was photographed wearing a sweatshirt with “Farewell” printed on the chest. Coincidence?

That was ultimately unlikely, given that the organization and Drummond/his agent Jeff Schwartz have agreed that the league’s second leading rebounder will remain inactive until he is traded out of Cleveland, which is Cleveland’s preferred outcome. In terms of the reported details/potential trade suitors, though, you can view those here.

Separating from Drummond could actually be a statistical advantage for the hurting Cavaliers, losers of eight straight, in any case. Farewell indeed.

Though they will soon bid adieu to Drummond’s nightly double-double averages of 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds, the Cavaliers will welcome an almost certain increase in team free throw percentage. Currently the Cavs rank dead last in that metric: shooting just 71.8 percent from the stripe. By comparison, the Clippers lead the league, making their freebies at an 84.7 percent clip.

Drummond no longer in the picture should be a boost for the Cavs FT woes.

Drummond has been a major reason why the team’s percentage is so poor. Now in his ninth season, he’s attempting 5.2 free throws a game and making just over half (59.7 percent). Removing him from the rotation and eventually from the team, becomes the simplest form of addition by subtraction (for team free throw percentage).

Of the six current Cavs (other than Drummond) averaging 25 or more minutes a game (*Larry Nance Jr. was excluded from this list because he is injured and expected to miss an extended amount of time) only one player: rookie Isaac Okoro, shoots less than 70 percent from the stripe (Okoro is at 67.4 percent). In fact, these six have a combined free throw percentage of just under 78.9 percent. That number would place the Wine and Gold in the NBA’s top 10 for team free throw percentage.

Additionally, Drummond’s replacement – Jarrett Allen is significantly better than Drummond in this category. Allen attempts 4.4 free throws per game, hitting on 76.1 percent with Cleveland, and had been hitting 75.6 percent with his prior squad, the Brooklyn Nets. He’s a lifetime 70.4 percent free throw shooter, for further context.

Diving deeper, when Drummond has been on the floor, he commands the ball – a lot. His 62.4 touches per game are third-most on the team, per Second Spectrum’s tracking data. More touches equate to more shot attempts and more opportunities to be fouled, and then ultimately, missed free throws. Without Drummond’s touches, the lane is likely to open up at least some, and Allen, Cleveland’s long-term future at the 5 clearly, is far more efficient finisher inside, and a willing screener that doesn’t need nearly the touch volume of Drummond on-ball.

The result should provide guards Colin Sexton and Darius Garland with more opportunities to have the ball in their hands and attempt more shots near the basket, likely increasing how often each player is fouled.

Sending the “SexLand” duo to the line works in the Cavs favor: Garland is tops on the team in free throw percentage at 90.3 percentage and Sexton, who leads Cleveland in attempted free throws per game, isn’t far behind at 80.5 percent.

Giving these two more chances, along with others, such as perhaps Taurean Prince, and feasibly Kevin Love when he’s back, from the charity stripe will undoubtably increase the Cavaliers team free throw percentage, improving their woeful ranking.

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We’ll of course have to see what plays out involving a Drummond trade, which the Cavs hope to be able to execute. But it’s again a boost for Cleveland’s free throw hit rate that Drummond, who is out of the picture on the floor, is no longer clanking looks from there.