Basket blitzing Miami Heat still don't get to the free-throw line

One of them still has a partially missing tooth, the other is still determined enough to get his replaced, time after time. So are the fates for the two scrappy Miami Heat guards, Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic.

So, Dragic and Johnson aren’t exactly unacquainted with the bumps and bruises that come with playing NBA basketball. Still, usually when you get bumped around in the NBA — especially on the offensive end — you get awarded with foul calls.

At 35.2 drives per game, per NBA.com/Stats, the Heat attacks the basket more than any team in the NBA; they are no strangers to the rigors of putting your body on the line for a bucket. (I’m pretty sure Miami leads the league in trips to the dentist due to physical play. I couldn’t find that metric, though.) The number of times a team jack-knifes to the basket and how many free-throw attempts they’ve been awarded would seem to be correlated, by any NBA follower’s book. And they would be right — most of the time.

In statistics — don’t glaze over, I know I would! — there’s something called “r" and it denotes the correlation coefficient: or the number that measures the correlation between two variables. If “r” is close to 1 or -1, the correlation is strong. The closer it is to 0, the less it’s correlated. Boom! (Keep in mind that r is rarely ever "1" and perfectly correlated. Anything over 0.6 is a strong correlation.)

Miami is in the bottom-third of the league in free-throw attempts on drives, according to NBA.com/Stats, the playtype that they lead the league in.

The correlation coefficient (r) of drives and free-throw attempts per game is 0.589. That translates to a pretty strong relationship between drives and free throws.

Take a look at the linear correlation:

Source: Data from NBA.com/Stats

Check out the circled dot on the far right scatterplot. That’s the Heat. They’re below the regression line, which predicted that they would be getting 7.14 free-throw attempts for their 35.2 drives. It’s an overestimation, the most egregious overestimation in the model.

Though Miami attacks the basket more than any other club in the league, they don’t score the most while doing it. They’re not even in the top five. They score the sixth-most off drives (19.6 points per game), per NBA.com/Stats, behind teams like Toronto, Brooklyn, Portland and more. All of the clubs that net more points off drives than Miami get to the line more, too.

The Heat also lead the league in passes out of drives, which could be the reason for their suspect free-throw numbers, too. Regardless, the Heat continue to be outliers — statistically and throughout this second half of the NBA season.

(All stats current as of March 22, 2017)


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