From the perspective of achieving points at the foul line, long a staple of Duke offense under Mike Krzyzewski, 2021 was something of an unnoticed disaster.
The Blue Devils finished second in the ACC with 76.0 points per game. A third of those points came from 3-point range. But Duke was a bust at the foul line, worst of Krzyzewski’s tenure.
That deficiency contributed significantly to its inconsistency. The Devils three times experienced three-game losing streaks. Five of their losses came by fewer than five points, not to mention two that came late in the year in overtime.
A few more points via free throw could have made a major difference. In eight of Duke’s 11 defeats, the other team attempted more foul shots. On the year opponents made and attempted more free throws per game and hit a higher percentage than Duke at the line.
Most telling, the ’21 Devils didn’t take advantage of their foul shot opportunities, scoring a mere 13.1 percent of their points via free throw.
That was not only the smallest portion of points any ACC team achieved at the line last year, but the fewest realized by a Duke squad in Krzyzewski’s first 41 seasons.
In fact, Duke’s point production on foul shots was more than four percent lower than any squad of the Krzyzewski era. The previously low was 17.14 percent in 1995, when the Devils finished last in the ACC with Coach K sidelined for the second half of the season.
Duke earned fewer than 20 percent of its points on free throws in only 8 of the last 41 seasons, a shade under once year in every five.
Such modest point production at the line has been the case in each of the last four seasons, and five of the last seven, an unwelcome and uncharacteristic trend that speaks of a weakened interior attack, middling aggressiveness ‘off the dribble’, and compensatory heavy reliance on perimeter scoring.
Making matters worse last year, the team’s .691 free throw accuracy was one of only eight occasions under Krzyzewski when Duke’s conversion rate was that low or lower. Among regulars only DJ Steward and Wendell Moore made more than three-fourth of their foul shots.
Portion of Duke Points Derived By Free
Throw, By Season Under Mike Krzyzewski