When I started diving into the first batches of RotoPoll rankings, I was amazed by the influence of free throw shooting on a player’s value (perhaps this is why my teams always rank near the bottom in free throw percentage). I saw that a player like Allen Iverson (currently #1 in FT value, by a mile) contributes incredible value from his FT shooting alone. I always knew he was a good shooter, but I figured his poor FG% kind of canceled out his good FT%.
While his FG% is pretty poor (-1.67), his FT% score (2.58) is nearly double it in the positive direction.
For perhaps a better illustration, let’s consult the RotoPoll “Rater Creator” (I’m struggling to find a good name for this feature).
Let’s plug in some fairly modest numbers for a game: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, a three, 5/11 field goal shooting, and 2/2 from the line. (We’ll call this hypothetical player “Shane Battier”.) The Rater tells us that this game is good for a RotoPoll score of -1.08, good enough to be the 62nd-best player in 8-category leagues. Not too bad.
Now what happens if our hero Shane misses two measly free throws, and ends up 2/4 from the line? You’d guess he drops a little, right? But the rest of the line is the same–still 12 points, a block, and so on–so it can’t affect him too much. Well, guess again. He drops all the way down to a -3.80 score, which would rank 131st. All for missing two free throws!
I guess it makes sense, if you think about it. 100% FT shooting would be the all-time best, and 50% would be near the all-time worst. And four free throws is a fair number to shoot in a game, slightly above average.
As a final illustration, take the 2/4 FT game and let’s add two blocks to it. Guess what the rank is? 62nd, just like when Shane had only one block but was 2/2 from the line. So every time one of your players misses a free throw, it’s like taking one of your precious blocks off the board.
Think about that next time you see Lebron brick an opportunity for a three-point play.