Dallas • No team shoots more free throws than the Utah Jazz. Their free-throw rate is at 35.3 percent right now, two points better than second-place Philadelphia and nearly 10 points better than last year (when they ranked 10th in the league).
The increased rim pressure the Jazz are putting on opponents has meant not only more dunks and layups, but more free throws too. Rudy Gobert is the key there, but Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder and even Dante Exum are all getting to the line more than they have in their careers so far.
But the percentages haven’t been stellar. They’ve had a couple of bounce-back games in their last two wins, but the Jazz still rank 22nd in the league overall at free throw percentage, at 73 percent. Gobert’s percentage has dipped: after shooting 68 percent last year, he’s down to 62 percent for the season so far. In Gobert’s defense, the season is still early enough that that’s only a few misses either way.
That was the gist of his answer, too, when I asked him about the decrease. “How many games have we played so far?" he asked. After being given the answer (13), Gobert responded, “Ask me again after 82.”
Donovan Mitchell’s pull-up 3
Mitchell was the last player on the court after shootaround Wednesday in Dallas, working on his 3-point shot. Just like the Jazz’s free throws, Mitchell’s 3-point percentage has dipped in the early season, from 34 to 30 percent. And again, there’s emphasis on early: a couple of misses turned to makes takes that dip away, it could be just randomness at play.
But Mitchell’s emphasis on it in practice does reflect this reality: he wanted it to be a bigger part of his game in his second season after working on his pull-up threes frequently this offseason. Even a small decline seems bigger when you expected an improvement.
The good news is Mitchell has now been around the block once, and knows the season has these natural shooting slumps.
“That’s the thing right now, I’m waiting it out. I’m not really overthinking it. Some of my development is just being mature," Mitchell said. "Last year, I would have overthought it and put too much into it. Now, I know it’s going to come around, it’s just a matter of when.”