By GERY WOELFEL
Ever since Giannis Antetokounmpo began his NBA career in 2013, he has been a train wreck at the free throw.
Now in his 10th pro season, Antetokounpo has never shot better than 77 percent from the line. In three of the last four seasons, he’s shot worse than 68 percent from the line, including 65.3 percent his season. That is the second-lowest free throw percentage of Antetokounmpo’s pro career.
Antetokounmpo has seemingly tried everything under the sun to be at least a decent free throw shooter. He’s had different shooting coaches, different shooting forms, different routines. Nothing has helped.
But here’s a suggestion that could perhaps finally rectify Antetokounmpo’s free throw shooting woes: Seek the advice and insight of his teammate and friend James Khristian Middleton.
Most NBA fans know Middleton as one of the NBA’s deadliest mid-range shooters but fail to realize he’s just as lethal from the free throw line.
Unlike Antetokounmpo, Middleton has gotten better as his pro career as progressed. He is not only one of the NBA’s best free throw shooters today; he’s one of the best in the history of the league.
The lowest percentage Middleton has ever shot in his 11-year pro career is .837, that coming during the 2018-19 season. And that was anomaly.
Excluding that 2018-19 season, Middleton has never shot less 88 percent from the line since the 2015-16 season. He has been virtually automatic the last four seasons: 91.6, 89.8, 89 and 89.5 this season.
Middleton’s career free throw percentage is a white-hot 88.1. And that ranks Middleton as the 17th best free throw shooter in NBA history.
Only four current players have a better career free throw percentage than Middleton. Golden State’s Stephen Curry ranks first all-time at .908, while Portland’s Damian Lillard ranks eighth at .892. Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant (.886) and Kyrie Irving (.882) rank 13th and 15th, respectively.
- Middleton, who has been sidelined much of this season by injuries, isn’t the only great free throw shooter who has spent time with the Bucks. Hera are some of the others, with their all-time rank, the years they played for the Bucks and free throw percentage:
6. Ray Allen (With Bucks from 1996-2003) …. 89.3.
9. J.J. Redick (2012-2012) …. 89.2.
11. Scott Skiles (1986-87) …. 88.9.
20. Kyle Korver (2019-2020) …. 87.6.
22. Earl Boykins (2006-2007 / 2010-2011) …. 87.5.
23. Ricky Pierce (1984-1991 / 1997-1998) …. 87.5
25. Terrell Brandon (1997-1999) … 87.3