Peak Sports Mailbag: Week 5

Ask and answer SFU and non-SFU related sports questions. This week: NBA Basketball

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By: Brandon Braich, Peak Associate

Hey Peak sports readers,

My name is Brandon Braich, and I’m this week’s host for the NBA basketball themed Peak Sports Mailbag. Thanks so much to all of our readers for submitting their basketball-related questions, and my apologies if your question didn’t make it into this week’s edition. Usually, the Mailbag host will only answer three or four questions. Don’t worry though, as all questions submitted count for an entry into the raffle draw whether or not they are addressed in the Mailbag. Now, onto the questions!

Question 1: “Why don’t any NBA players shoot free throws using an underhanded toss? Wilt Chamberlain toyed with this for a month during his career and it’s been shown to be a shooting approach that has fewer variables. Is it just that players don’t want to look silly in front of their peers or is there something more to it? – Gurpreet. 

Answer: Rick Barry is perhaps the most successful example of a player using the underhanded free throw technique. Barry was a 89% career free throw shooter, and promoted the style to his peers, who for the most part, rejected the advice. At the end of the day, the strategy does not make sense for most of the NBA. Guards should be able to make free throws at a very high percentage and it is only logical to continue to use the form they use for all their shots. Strong free throw shooters regularly shoot around 90%, the elite mark Barry achieved. 

The question that arises is whether players such as Chamberlain, who famously struggled with free throws, should adjust how they shoot. Big men have physical disadvantages when it comes to free throws due to their height, strength, and large hands. Hulking centers are not able to get as much arc on their shot and have less touch and control.

Despite the seemingly small size of a hoop, it actually can fit two basketballs at once, so the higher the angle the ball is coming in, the larger the target is. The big benefit to underhand shooting is the ability to get more arc for taller players that struggle with this. Given the data and science that support this, it appears the biggest obstacle to more players adapting this strategy is the simple problem you have mentioned; the optics of doing a “granny shot” would be embarrassing for most players!

Question 2: “When do you see Vancouver getting an NBA team again, if ever? In your opinion, what are the main reasons Vancouver couldn’t support an NBA team? Do you think it would be different now?” – Darren. 

Answer: When the NBA comes to town in a few weeks for another pre-season game, Vancouver will once again get a taste of NBA action after losing the Grizzlies nearly two decades ago. The Grizzlies were an example of managerial failure, as one cannot say the city did not support them. Considering the team never won more than 23 games in a season, the fact that attendance began to fall in their last couple years cannot be blamed on the fanbase. 

The NBA, despite continuing to grow and generate profit, may not exactly be looking to expand. While the league as a whole pulls in massive revenue, on an individual level many teams actually lose money before revenue sharing. As a result, adding more franchises may dilute the profit of the other teams.

The other obstacle facing expansion to Vancouver lies just south of the city. Seattle seems to be next in line for a franchise since the city has an NBA quality stadium as well as a large, built-in fan base from their Supersonic days. Regardless, the fact that the only northwest NBA team is in Portland is a travesty for all the NBA fans living in this region, and even expansion into Seattle will allow the game to grow here in Vancouver. 

Question 3: Do you expect any more large transactions before the season begins?” – Nigel.

Answer: Chris Paul seems to be the obvious target to move. OKC is heading towards a rebuild and should be looking to deal Paul and his large contract, while CP3, despite his age, can still be a difference maker on a contender. A potential deal however will not be straight forward, as you would expect the Thunder will want to receive assets in return, which may be difficult due to Paul’s contract. Paul is due to be paid a whopping 38 million this coming season. 

A rumoured possible destination are the Miami Heat, who are looking for another star player to pair with the recently signed Jimmy Butler. The Heat are a compatible partner as they are one of the few teams that can match salary with contracts that are expendable, most notably, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, and Kelly Olynyk. The question will be if the Heat will be willing to send a 1st round pick in return, or possibly their best young asset, Justise Winslow. 

I would expect the Thunder will not be any rush to make a deal, so this may stretch into the season, but it is unlikely that Chris Paul will finish the year in Oklahoma City. 

If you would like to participate in future editions of the Peak Sports Mailbag and be entered in a raffle for an end-of-semester prize, here’s what you can send to

  • Sports-related questions that our weekly host will answer
  • Weekly theme ideas to guide our questions

Or: sign up to host the Mailbag (and get paid)!

Thanks to all of you SFU sports fans for blowing up my inbox!

Next week’s theme is: Rugby

Next week’s host is: Chris Turenne 

Send in your questions to