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Elena Delle Donne Historically Accurate at the Free Throw Line

Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 4 and was updated on Sept. 9 and Sept. 14.

Elena Delle Donne is 6-foot-5 with a skill set rarely found in women’s basketball.

She can handle the ball, slash to the basket, shoot from distance, move her feet defensively, block shots and essentially play any of the five positions on the floor.

But her most impressive talent may be her mastery of the game’s simplest play: the free throw.

Delle Donne’s foul shooting prowess is historic for not just women’s basketball, but the game as a whole. Here’s a look inside the numbers:


95.0 Delle Donne’s free throw percentage this season, a WNBA record (min. 100 attempts)

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Becky Hammon shot 95% from the line or better four times, but she didn’t attempt more than 100 free throws in any of those seasons. She finished her career with the first-ever perfect season, 35-of-35, in 2014.

But no one in WNBA history has ever shot at least 95% while attempting at least 100 free throws in a season, and EDD finished at 95.0% after going 207-of-218. Danielle Robinson’s 94.1% (96/102) last season was the previous record.


29 Number of free throws Delle Donne has missed in her entire WNBA career

150904_edd-nba_900-400

At 448-of-477, Delle Donne is a career 93.9% free throw shooter, which ranks first in WNBA history by more than 4% (Becky Hammon is second at 89.7%).

Compare her 77-game career — nearly equal to an 82-game NBA season — with the best foul-shooting seasons in NBA history, and it’s difficult to find a player who combines volume and accuracy like EDD. In fact, you can’t: The highest free-throw percentage ever recorded by a player with at least 400 attempts in a season is 92.7% by Peja Stojakovic in 2003-04.

Highest Free Throw Percentage, Min. 400 Attempts
Player Season(s) Games FT% FTA/FTM
Elena Delle Donne 2013-15 77 93.9% 448/477
Peja Stojakovic 2003-04 81 92.7% 394/425
Rick Barry 1977-78 82 92.4% 378/409
Reggie Miller 1999-00 81 91.9% 373/406
Reggie Miller 1990-91 82 91.8% 551/600

 


85 Number of free throws Delle Donne has missed since high school

Foul shooting is all about repetition, and Delle Donne has had plenty of it. Combined with her college shooting over four years at the University of Delaware, she has made 889 of 974 foul shots — good for 91.3% over seven basketball seasons.


58 Consecutive free throws made by Delle Donne in June 2015, then a new record within a single season

There was no better evidence of how locked in EDD was at the start of this season than her free throw shooting. With 58 consecutive makes, she fell eight short of Eva Nemcova’s 66 straight, which spanned the 1999 and 2000 seasons.

Five weeks after Delle Donne’s streak ended, Phoenix Mercury guard DeWanna Bonner broke her single-season record with 59 makes in a row. (The NBA single-season record is 78 by Calvin Murphy in 1980-81.)


NDelle Donne became  the sixth player in WNBA history with at least 200 free throws made in a single season

What makes Delle Donne so deadly is not just her accuracy at the line but her ability to get to the line in the first place as one of the most difficult covers in the league. She led the WNBA in free throw attempts per game (7.0) and has scored a league-high 207 points at the line.

The club of players with 200+ made free throws in a season includes a sample of the most explosive scorers ever: Katie Smith (2001), Angel McCoughtry (2011), Diana Taurasi (2008) and Cynthia Cooper (1998, ’99). Among that group, only Delle Donne converted on more than 90% of her attempts.