What we learned from the Houston Rockets' pre-season #2: The Rockets are going to live at the line
Basketball purists have bemoaned the death of the mid-range. As more and more teams worship at the altar of threes and layups the shot that dominated much of basketball history has become a late shot clock afterthought. While the mid-range jumper has faded out of popularity, free throws are a mid-range jumper and remain the third, often forgotten, member of the analytics holy trinity of threes, lay-ups, and free throws.
The Rockets aren’t going to be a great 3-point shooting team, but that might not matter because they absolutely lived at the free throw line. In the pre-season, the Rockets attempted the most free throws per game at 32.8. While they probably won’t spend the regular season getting to the line over 30 times, it’s a good indicator that they’ll be one of the best teams in the league at getting to the line.
The only downside was that the Rockets were absolutely abysmal at actually converting their freebies. They shot 65.6-percent from the line, tied for the worst mark in the pre-season, but with their tremendous volume, they still hit the second most free throws per game. If the Rockets can improve from the stripe it won’t matter if they don’t get there quite as much. The Rockets might not have James Harden anymore, but expect them to live at the line.