In my opinion shooters fall into one of the following 3 levels of shooting ability. You will likely be able to identify into which group you are in at the moment.
Level 1 – Players on this level miss a lot due to bad mechanics and inconsistency. If you find yourself here, the first thing we need to do before we go anywhere else is address your mechanics so you can shoot the ball consistently with good form. The mistake a lot of players make is shoot a lot of game like shots and 3 point shots with bad mechanics. Now you can make yourself into a very good shooter with bad mechanics (think Reggie Miller or Peja Stojkovic), but that would require 1,000’s of shots more than having good mechanics right from the start. So if you miss a lot and you think that is due to bad mechanics, move closer to the basket, sort things out and then move back over time. Trust me sorting out your shooting mechanics early, will save you countless hours in the long run.
Level 2 – Players on this level have consistent mechanics and misses occur due to lack of quickness of release and lack of movement without the ball (too contested). If you are on Level 2 you can make a good amount of shots in practice, but you struggle in games when you are more contested. That is probably due to the fact that your release is a bit slow and you do not know yet how to separate yourself from your defender effectively yet. Now is the time to really learn how to move, either by coming off screens, or moving when one of your teammates penetrates. The more you move the harder it is for your defender to guard you and stay close. Creating just an extra metre of close out distance for your defender can make the difference between making and missing your shot. You also need to look at your footwork to make sure that you have a super quick release on your shot.
Level 3 – Players make a lot more than they miss. The player acquired all the skills as well as advanced pattern recognition from many shots in practice and in games. Pattern recognition is your ability to make a split second decision to see whether you are open or not. This takes a lot of game like practices to make those quick decisions, but once you know how to make a really good read you shooting percentages will go through the roof. Unfortunately, a lot of player catch the ball and have no idea whether they are actually open or not. They are either wide open and pass up a shot or are fully contested and force a shot. You have to do lots of drills with a defender closing out so you can develop that sense of whether you are open or not. A good example of pattern recognition is the pick and roll. Why were players like John Stockton or Steve Nash so great in executing the pick and roll? Because they have been in a pick and roll situation 1000’s of times so they can recognise any kind of defense thrown at them (patterns) and make the appropriate read. Shooting is exactly the same! Once you reach this level you really know how to put the ball in the basket.
The majority of players I have worked with are Level 1 or Level 2 shooters. With a lot of hard work and determination they can make themselves a Level 3 shooter. In my coaching career so far I have had less than 5 Level 3 shooters. To get to that level is not easy and there are no short cuts!
Sometimes when you move up to play against tougher opponents you might slip back a level, in particular if you have reached Level 3. When a consistent shooter moves up say from High School to College or College to NBA they often slip back a little bit. That is due to the fact that competition all of a sudden is just better – you have better/quicker/longer defenders and team defences are better – so a Level 3 shooter needs to refine his pattern recognition a little bit to be able to shoot at his best, as well as likely learn to speed up their mechanics even more.
A good example for that is former Michigan Guard Nik Stauskas. When Nik came out of Michigan he was regarded as one of the best shooters in the country and in his first NBA season he is shooting a below average 28% from 3. We know that he has got good mechanics and knows how to move around the court, he just needs time to adjust to the increased speed of defenders and the sophistication of the defenses. That is a natural process and all players go through that adjustment period.
So there you have the 3 Levels of shooting ability. What level are you on right now and what are you doing about moving up the next Level?
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