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2008 Team USA: Better Free Throw Shooting

Greg Dohmann of ESPN Research makes an interesting point about Team USA:

There was once a time, not so long ago, when made free throws by the U.S. Men's Basketball Team served only as icing on the deliciously lopsided cake, turning modest 30-point leads into less-modest 40-point wins.

Mr. Jordan or Mr. Barkley could even decline trips to the charity stripe without objection from onlookers. Sadly, those days are behind us, and in Beijing, free throws could spell the difference between gold and another embarrassing "anything but."

In Athens, Team USA shot just .668 from the line, the lowest percentage since NBA players first participated in 1992 and ninth of the 12 participating teams. The team shot just .659 in its three losses, including 11 missed free throws in a four-point loss to Lithuania.

While a clear emphasis was placed on stacking the 2008 team with the jump shooters missing in Athens, there has been less focus on free-throw shooting.

But the 2008 roster does feature several of the Association's best free throw shooters.

The 2004 team included just two players (Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion) who shot better than .800 from the line in the previous season. This year's team includes six such players (Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Michael Redd, Jason Kidd, and Deron Williams).

Considering the general lack of size on the roster, it's not out of the question that the U.S. could feature an entire lineup of over-.800 shooters at crucial points.

U.S. Men's Basketball Team Free-Throw Shooting Percentage

1992 .726

1996 .681

2000 .722

2004 .668

2004 Team USA

Shawn Marion .851

Stephon Marbury .817

Carmelo Anthony .777

Carlos Boozer .768

Richard Jefferson .763

LeBron James .754

Dwyane Wade .747

Allen Iverson .745

Lamar Odom .742

Amare Stoudemire .713

Tim Duncan .599

Emeka Okafor .518 (NCAA stats)

TEAM: .733

2008 Team USA

Chris Paul .851

Chris Bosh .844

Kobe Bryant .840

Michael Redd .820

Jason Kidd .818

Deron Williams .803

Carmelo Anthony .786

Tayshaun Prince .768

Dwyane Wade .758

Carlos Boozer .738

LeBron James .712

Dwight Howard .590

TEAM: .777

The projected starting lineup of Kidd, Bryant, James, Anthony, and Howard shot a combined .749 in 07-08. The team's best possible FT shooting lineup (Paul, Kidd, Bryant, Redd, and Bosh) shot .835.

Take what you will from three exhibition contests, but so far, Team USA has been strong from the line. The team has shot .741 in wins over Canada, Turkey, and Lithuania.