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NBA D-League Advanced Team Stats: Week 8, Feat. the Reno Bighorns

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The Reno Bighorns finished the 8th week of the D-League season with a 15-8 record and a similarly impressive efficiency differential of 4.5 points per 100 possessions.  The major reason for that success is their domination of the charity stripe.  The Bighorns are tied for first in the D-League in offensive free throw rate (free throws made per field goal attempted) and are third in defensive free throw rate.

It's not that the Bighorns are a particularly good shooting team, or that their opponents aren't making their shots at the line.  They're shooting 73.5% and "allowing" a 72.4% against.   As with most great scorers and most great scoring teams, the Bighorns excel at attacking the basket.  The Bighorns currently have three players averaging more than five free throw attempts: recent assignee PG Jeremy Lin (7.4 per game), injured PG Aaron Miles (5.8 per game) and G D.J. Strawberry (5.9 per game).  Overall, the team is taking 33 free throws per game, a very high number.

On defense, preventing free throws is pretty simple: don't foul.  The Bighorns tend to avoid foul trouble well, as none of their big-minute, big-scoring players average more than four fouls per 40 minutes of game time.  Only two players who have played significant minutes have foul issues: Hassan Whiteside (5.35 per 40 minutes) and Doug Thomas (5.83 per 40 minutes).  Unsurprisingly, these players don't play heavy minutes.  It may be related that the Bighorns give up a fairly good effective field goal percentage - 51% - but their overall defense is above average, at a 104.3 defensive rating.  This suggests to me that both their wing players are good at keeping their man out of the lane and that the post players are able to defend the hoop (although not as well as some teams) without fouling.

The Bighorns have been above average on both ends of the floor this year.  A large portion of that success has come because of their dominance of the free throw lines.   As players like Miles and Lin contend for and potentially receive NBA call-ups, we may see this dominance decrease, but for now we should expect the Bighorns to continue to win D-League games and to win them at the line.