If the Toronto Raptors want to make it to postseason play in 2013-14, one of the ways they can improve their chances is to get to the free throw line more often.
According to the Raptors' 2012-13 stats page on NBA.com, the Raptors made it to the free throw line 1,831 times as opposed to the 2,148 times their opponents made it there, which is a difference of 317. While they made 1,442 of their free throw attempts for a fifth-place NBA average of .788 for the 2012-13 season, their opponents made 1,604 free throws for a difference of 162.
However, if Tyler Hansbrough gets to the free throw line and makes the same number of free throws for the Raptors during the 2013-14 that he did for the Indiana Pacers during the 2012-13 season, it would go a long way to closing those free throw attempts and free throws made gaps.
During the 2012-13 season, Hansbrough made 216 free throws on 300 attempts for the Pacers, according to Hansbrough's statistics on the ESPN website. Hansbrough's 300 free throw attempts are only 17 fewer than the difference between the Raptors and their opponents last season, and his 216 makes were 54 more than the Raptors' deficit. If Hansbrough had played for the Raptors last season, those totals would have made him second on the team behind DeMar DeRozan, according to the Raptors statistics on NBA.com.
Hansbrough would be even more effective in helping the Raptors close their free throw deficits if he could match his career-high free throw percentage of .813 he had in the 2011-12 season. In contrast, his .720 free throw percentage in 2012-13 was the lowest of his career.
Of course Hansbrough's ability to help close this deficit for the Raptors also will be affected by how many minutes he plays for the Raptors in 2013-14. Hansbrough played an average of 16.9 minutes per game for the Pacers during the 2012-13 season. That average was the lowest of his career. Hansbrough is second on the Raptors' depth chart on the ESPN website behind Amir Johnson at the power forward position. Johnson averaged 28.7 minutes per game as opposed to 33.4 minutes per game for David West of the Pacers, for whom Hansbrough came off the bench last year. However, during April 2013, Johnson averaged 33.6 minutes per game for the Raptors.
But the Raptors as a team could reduce the free throw attempt and free throws made deficit by reducing its personal foul average from 2012-13. The Raptors led the league in personal fouls per game with 22.4, according to statistics on NBA.com. Johnson's 3.7 fouls per game was second only to Dwight Howard's 3.8. Kyle Lowry also made the Top 10 in personal fouls per game last year with 3.2, which tied him for ninth with three other players. Additionally, the Raptors were the only team in the NBA to have two players in the Top 10 in that category.
Whether it be Hansbrough that closes the deficit for the Raptors in free throw categories, the Raptors giving up fewer fouls, or a combination of the two, improvement in this aspect of the Raptors' game could be a key for the Raptors to getting to the NBA Playoffs.