As Al Horford works his way back into heavy rotation for the Hawks, one of the areas that has seen a precipitous drop is in his free throw attempt rate.
Historically, Al has been getting to the line a little more than one every four times he shoots the ball (.253). This season, over the first 21 games, Al is getting to the line once every 10 times he shoots the ball. Only one time this season has Al attempted more than two free throws in a game. Al, through his Age 26 season of 2012-13, drew 1.36 shooting fouls per game. This season, so far, Al is getting 0.57 shooting fouls per game, more than half his historic rate.
Part of the reason is where Al is shooting from on the floor. Horford is attempted a larger percentage of his shots further from the hoop, from data collected on Basketball Reference.
Horford, as the Shooting table showed in the link, has attempted 39.2 percent of his shots from further than 16 feet. Horford has always been a gawd from out there, but he attempted 32.4 percent from that range in 2012-13, when he last played a full season.
Where that percentage is pulling from is close to the hoop, where Al has only attempted 27% of his shots within three feet. He hasn't been that low since 2010-11 when he was only shooting 23.1% of his shots from that range. Standing outside shooting jump shots is a good way to avoid contact and, in turn, less fouls called while shooting.
Why is Al shooting more from the perimeter? Part of it is his teammate, Paul Millsap. Since Millsap has been in Atlanta, he has attempted 56% of his shots inside of 10 feet. Can't have two bigs inside, so Al has been outside more in the 50 games they've been rostered together.
Another could be in Al's conditioning. As Al told me two weeks ago, he's not close to 100% of where he wants his conditioning to be and that's affecting his getting to his typical racing the opposing big down the floor and forcing some slap defense. This has led to his current 29 mpg average, the lowest of his career, and the associated deflation of Al's per game stats. It hasn't affected his efficiency, as Al continues to be, in terms of PER and win shares, a very efficient player.
So it bears watching as Al gets his conditioning up to his own level of satisfaction, we should see his free throw uptick and Al's counting and qualitative stats to coincide with that, all of which should provide even more firepower to an already hot Hawks team.