Throwback Thursday: When Danny Fortson was unconscious from the stripe

Once in a while I’ll remember what day it is and post something related to Throwback Thursday. This week’s post goes back 10 seasons and then some in regards to a bruiser in the middle.

The 2005 SuperSonics had Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis both in the primes of their careers and knocking down three-pointer after three-pointer. Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Ridnour were others  who also had accurate range. All of them helped make that squad one of the 20 most efficient offenses in the last 10 seasons, according to Basketball-Reference.

What’s easy to forget, though, is their free throw shooting was also elite. If not for Reggie Evans, the ’05 Sonics were one of the five most accurate shooters from the line. Evans could board, averaging 14 rebounds per 36 minutes, but making free throws was quite a weakness as he finished the season at 53 percent on three attempts per game.

Enter Danny Fortson, a bruiser off the bench who could rebound nearly as well (20.3 percent of available rebounds compared to Evans’ 23.9), foul over twice as often (yay?), but was as accurate from the free throw line as Allen and Ridnour that season. He finished the year at 88 percent, 10th best in the league and a mark higher than the current ones of Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry, though Fortson’s skill set is nowhere near as glamorous as those three sharks.

A player like Fortson is normally a liability at the line, much like Evans still is. Since 2000, a player to snag more than 20 percent of rebounds in play for a season (accomplished 79 times) has on average made only 63.2 percent of their free throws. Players like Dwight Howard and (soon) Andre Drummond drag that percentage down but a few big men like Fortson and Kevin Love balance things out somewhat.

The table below should help show how weird of company Fortson is both included and tops in. The filters: 500 minutes played, 20 percent of available rebounds, and 80 percent free throw shooting:

For the fantasy basketball players out there: Fortson’s combination of rebounding and free throw shooting wasn’t enough to make him a valuable player overall except during 2002. Durability, lack of major minutes, and a lack of stocks – steals + blocks – all played a factor in that. Still, he could’ve been a nice piece for free throw percentage and rebounds as long as a team was punting blocks or steals.

As for the table, the filters might be a little loose so Fortson is included with the rest of the players listed above, but I had to make some kind of requirement so Quentin Richardson wouldn’t be included. Also, Zaid Abdul-Aziz just became one of my favorite NBA names ever. I even “liked” his Basketball-Reference page.

Anyway, in between the extremes of free throwers like Howard and Fortson are a bunch of players like Zach Randolph and Joakim Noah.

But while Fortson could joust for position under the rim with the best of them, he could also rack up fouls in a hurry. He’s only one of two players to log over 500 minutes and average nine fouls per-36. During his 2004-05 stint, he averaged over four fouls per game all while playing over 1,000 minutes, which is kind of impressive in itself. Since 2000, only eight players have averaged four fouls and even logged 500 minutes of play. The average free throw percentage for those guys is actually quite good, balancing out to 75.2 percent. DeMarcus Cousins is one of the worst free throwers of that group with Fortson as the best, thanks to that unusual 88 percent shooting.

Below is a table of those eight players and their free throw percentages:

It’s an interesting mix of players (not just on the court, but in general). For Jason Collins and Fortson, I’m not sure foul accumulation mattered that much since they’re rarely playing significant time anyway, but for someone like Shawn Kemp to average 4.5 fouls? Good grief.

Looking back, I’m not sure what Fortson’s best remembered for. Was it his fouling, rebounding, technical fouls, his time as a Cincinnati Bearcat, and/or even the dreadlocks that could’ve made him a solid teammate with Latrell Sprewell and Michael Beasley? It’s unlikely his free throw percentage can topple all of those traits, but his touch from the line was and continues to be so rare for a player like himself.

Below are some players who could join him in some rare company with the combo of free throw shooting and high-volume rebounding. As far as I’m concerned, especially after some searches on Basketball-Reference, nobody this season is within reach of his hot hand from the line and high-volume fouling.

That table isn’t meant to compare those players to Fortson; just listing a couple similar, basic stats they all thrive in. As for the 2005 playoffs, the Sonic forward/center shot 80 percent from the stripe on 15 attempts. A drop-off, sure, but still an impressive percentage nonetheless.

As usual, any other thoughts are welcome. Happy Thursday, but also happy Friday when that time arrives (if it hasn’t already).

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.


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5 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: When Danny Fortson was unconscious from the stripe

  1. tb727 March 8, 2014 at 9:31 am Reply

    Great write-up. Never would’ve known Fortson shot free throws that well at any point in his career. Based on his body-type I would’ve expected he would’ve been horrendous, like Anthony Mason, Cadillac Anderson, etc.

    I write the “What the Hell Happened” to feature on Celticslife so I wrote about Zaid Abdul-Aziz who seems like a great guy. Haven’t been able to track down what Fortson’s up to.

    I’d still say the 5 most insane guys ever to play in recent years, who I just absolutely wouldn’t mess with ever would be Fortson, Charles Oakley, Vernon Maxwell, Ruben Patterson and David Thirdkill

  2. Matt Femrite March 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm Reply

    Hey tb, thanks for the kind words. I actually wish I would’ve included a table of the FT%s of imposing figures like Mason, Fortson, etc. Comparisons on B/Reference show Fortson highest by a decent margin, though a couple others weren’t half bad.

    Hard to disagree with your top 5, and David Thirdkill is another terrific name.

    Great, enjoyable post about Abdul-Aziz, by the way. Glad you wrote that up (and chimed in here, otherwise I probably never would’ve come across that story about him). I couldn’t help but read the comment section either, but the stories from your readers about him are fabulous too.


    • tb727 March 8, 2014 at 9:01 pm Reply

      haha yes Matt some of the comments on the WTHHTs are priceless. Check out Travis Knight and Lou Tsropolois if you want for some serious laughs lol

      Another guy almost identical body-type to Fortson was Gary Trent. And his FT% is what I would’ve expected to Fortson.

      But yes your article is very insightful and something I will be sure to point out if and when I can find out what Fortson’s been up to post-playing career.

      Keep up the great work!

      • Matt Femrite March 8, 2014 at 11:58 pm

        Nice posts on Knight and Tsropolois, TB.

        That whole post series you cover is nice in general. I started a similar one here a while ago about players on odd teams (Celtics had a fair share of oddballs) but it derailed from what I usually like to write about. So now they’re just sitting in my laptop’s Recycling Bin. Was fun looking at players from the past, though, and learning new things about them.

        Thanks for the kind words, though. Shoot me a message on Twitter or e-mail (both are on my contact page) whenever your next posts are published. I’ll be happy to give them a click.

  3. tb727 March 9, 2014 at 6:46 am Reply

    Will do! I followed you on Twitter.

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