Shooting Myths, One-Motion Shooting And The WNBA

Written by Ethan Feldman
Photo via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

“Ten-toes to the rim! Square your shoulders! Don’t bring the ball down! Keep it high, Straight Up, Straight Down! Release it at the top of your jump!” are a few of the erroneous mantras repeated ad nauseum by ill-informed youth basketball coaches around the world.

Additionally, one common instruction that cannot be condensed into a pithy aphorism is the technique of two-motion as opposed to one-motion shooting. Traditionally, the two-motion shot has been taught to players while the one-motion shot has been delegitimized (but we’ll get to this later).

As a result, many young hoopers experience periods of cognitive dissonance wherein they follow the directions set forth by their coaches, while simultaneously witnessing exceptional high school, college and NBA players disobeying all the tenets of traditional basketball wisdom.

So why is this the case? Why do basketball coaches perpetuate antiquated techniques that have been proven time and again to be ineffective? There is no legitimate reason for this other than the fact that there is a vestigial belief that the aforementioned instructions somehow lead to more successful shooting.

MYTH #1: Ten Toes To The Rim!

In theory, pointing one’s toes to the rim sounds like a good idea that would be conducive to accurate shooting, but in three-dimensional reality, on the court, it is not an effective tactic.

For example, if a player is a right-handed shooter and is directly square to the basket, the ball will be on the player’s right side and not directly aligned with the hoop. However, if a right-handed player compensates by angling his or her feet to the left, the ball is now in the middle of the player’s body which will most likely lead to a more accurate shot.

Of the top 10 NBA players in three-point field goals made per game, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are the only ones who do not definitively shoot while angled to the side (even though they aren’t precisely straight either).

Kevin Durant Free Throw
GOOD
Stackhouse
BAD

MYTH #2: Don’t Bring The Ball Down

“Don’t bring the ball down” wins the trophy for most asinine instruction that a basketball coach can deliver. Every player in the top ten in 3-point field goals made during the 2016-2017 season dips the ball before they shoot. Klay Thompson is the only player in the NBA that I was able to locate footage of not bringing the ball down on occasion.

This being said, Klay employs this technique sparingly and tends to shoot this way after he has gotten “hot”. Yes, you can point to a couple of big men like Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge who don’t bring the ball down every time they shoot, but in general, there are very few players who do this and there are certainly no guards that do not dip the ball.

MYTH #3: Straight Up Straight Down! Land Where You Started!

The concept of landing where you began your jump shot viscerally seems to make sense; however, many of the NBA’s best shooters do no such thing.

Most notably, Stephen Curry, the best shooter of all time, has the most mercurial landings in the NBA. Depending on the situation, Curry will land with his feet close together, feet apart or one in front of the other.

James Harden and Eric Gordon are the only players ranking in the top ten in three-point field goals this year who keep their feet in generally the same location in which they began their respective shots–and this is the case for stationary shots only. When movement comes into play, i.e a shooter coming off of a curl or a pin-down, there is almost indubitably a turn and a player’s feet land forty-five degrees away from the basket.

MYTH #4: Two-Motion Shot

While it is true that there is no correct way to shoot, many coaches teach the two-motion shot to boys as they are growing up. Conversely,  if I were to offer a young player a tutorial, I would advise them to develop a one-motion shot as opposed to a two-motion shot. As a point of reference, here are players that have two-motion shots:

  • Ray Allen
  • Larry Bird
  • Reggie Miller

These players were greats no doubt, but I believe that youth basketball players should not replicate their form. Generally,  a two-motion shot is an effective method for shooting shots from ten to twenty feet from the basket. Guys like Shaun Livingston, DeMar Derozan and Evan Turner thrive in the mid-range, but struggle as they near the three-point line.

Why?

I believe that they struggle from distance because the two-motion shot requires high and pronounced elevation that expends a lot of energy. When a player reaches the apex of a high jump, they are left with only the strength of their arms to shoot the basketball.

On the other hand, one-motion shooters like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Paul George do not deal with this problem. You have probably heard these player’s names come up when “smooth” or “effortless” jump shots are the topic of discussion; this is because they shoot with one-motion shots (and also because they dip the ball, and are turned sideways when they shoot).

One-motion shooting is the future of the NBA. One-motion shooters tend to have quicker releases than two-motion shooters, and they actually utilize power from their lower body to shoot the ball from long distances.

I believe this is the reason why Curry made by far the most three-pointers this season, and Harden and Thompson were both in the top four for three- pointers made. Additionally, George boasted the most three-pointers for a small forward this season, and was second for both small forwards and power forwards, trailing only Anderson.

The one-motion shooter can get his or her shot from deeper without having to expend a lot of energy. Also, this is the reason why Curry, George, Harden and Lillard are exceptional at shooting off of the dribble from long distances. With one motion shooting, a player can turn a dribble into a shot in one concise, fluid motion in the blink of an eye.

Throughout its history, the WNBA has received tons of criticism for its relatively un-athletic style of play compared to the NBA. Men are generally stronger and more explosive than women, so obviously the WNBA features a much slower and less high-flying brand of basketball.

Within the basketball community, women have long been derided for their technique in shooting jump shots.

Traditionally, women push the ball with a one-motion shot because they typically don’t have the strength to shoot a two-motion shot over their head. While it is true that some female players push the ball in such a way that would place a male player in a precarious situation and liable to get blocked, male players would be well-served to study players like Dianna Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne, to name a few. Both Taurasi and Delle Donne exhibit an angled base to their shots, a quick dip and a smooth one-motion push.

If male players, for the most part naturally stronger and more explosive than their female counterparts, would adopt this fluid one-motion push style that many WNBA players wield, it would open the floodgates for NBA players to shoot effortlessly and accurately from thirty plus feet…Oh wait, we do know of one…that’s Stephen Curry.

Deconstructing DeMar DeRozan

Photo via AP Images

Widely regarded as one of the top-two shooting guards in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors enigma, DeMar DeRozan, experienced a breakout season this year as he increased his scoring average from 23.5 PPG to 27.3 PPG.

DeRozan has captured the hearts of older NBA fans everywhere as they revel in the nostalgic inefficiency of his mid-range game. During the course of any given Raptors game, fans around the world can experience DeRozan’s newly controversial style of play.

The smooth 6’7 wing, receiving the ball at the inviolable arc, proceeding to bastardize Daryl Morey’s sacred ideology as he employs a series of deliberate and calculated through-the-legs and half spin moves while we await the inevitable: an off-balance mid-range jump shot.

As basketball traditionalists decry the popularization of the Three-Pointer in the modern NBA, “The Lone-Mid-Ranger” has come to their aid to remind everyone that the mid-range is still an effective source of offense.

But is it?

Before advanced stats and efficiency-laden rhetoric pervaded efficiency NBA analysis, there was a time, as recently as the early 2000’s, when a plethora of teams relied on wing players who lacked comfortable range out to the 3-point line.

Of course, this is no longer the case as most of the best wings in the NBA today boast range out to three, and it feels as though every role-playing wing has garnered the highly coveted reputation of a “three and D player.” Derozan breaks this mold, as he finds the majority of his offense from isolations and Iverson cuts that lead to mid-range jumpers.

DeRozan over Haslem.jpg
DeRozan takes his patented mid-range jumper (Photo via Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Here is a look at DeRozan’s shooting percentages and shot distribution this year:

DeMar DeRozan’s Shooting Percentages During The 2016-2017 Season: 46.7 FG%, 26.9 3FG%, 84.2 FT%

DeMar DeRozan’s Shot Distribution during the 2016-2017 Season: 15.8% of DeRozan’s shots were from 0-3 feet where he shot 67%, 21.6% of his shots were from 3-10 feet where he shot 48%, 23.6% of his shots were from 10-16 feet where he shot 49%, 30.9% of his shots were from 16 feet-3 point line where he shot 38.5% and finally, 8% of his shots were from behind the 3-point-line where he shot 26.9%.

These statistics are significant because they illuminate Derozan’s truly unique shot chart. The NBA has branded DeRozan as a high-flying slasher, but he takes a smaller percentage of his shots from 0-3 feet than sharpshooters like Stephen Curry, Bradley Beal and C.J. McCollum. What’s more, is that he attempted approximately 7% fewer shots from 0-3 feet than he did in 2016 which is a troubling trend.

If we compare DeRozan’s shooting tendencies to his elite wing contemporaries, the results are startling. For the sake of argument, the elite wings in the NBA are: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Klay Thompson.

Of these stand-outs, the only ones who take a smaller percentage of shots from 0-3 feet are Paul George and Klay Thompson. It is worth noting however, that before PG13’s injury with USA basketball, he took a larger percentage of his shots around the hoop than DeRozan. On the other hand, Klay Thompson is a three-point shooter who only takes 0.2% less shots from that distance, while also 47% of his shots from three and making them at an elite volume and percentage.

When compared to his peers who excel at getting to the rim, DeRozan’s measly 15.8% of his shots from 0-3 feet is overshadowed by LeBron James’ 43%, Jimmy Butler’s 28% and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s nearly 50%.

DeRozan dunks during 2016 All star game.jpg
DeRozan dunks during the 2016 All-Star Game (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)

DeRozan’s dearth of escapades to the rim, coupled with his lack of three-point shooting, make it incredibly hard for DeRozan to be a truly efficient NBA star. Of the 24 NBA All-Stars this year, DeRozan was fourth worst in True Shooting Percentage as he was only ahead of Paul Millsap, John Wall and Carmelo Anthony (Millsap having made the team for his defensive ability and Anthony being an injury replacement).

During the past seven NBA seasons, there have only been three NBA All-Stars with a negative BPM (Box Plus Minus) for their careers: Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and DeMar DeRozan.

Since 1994, there have only been two players with negative BPM’s that started in an NBA All-Star Game: B.J Armstrong and DeMar DeRozan.

While these aforementioned players were solid in their own right, they did not come close to the supposed greatness of DeMar DeRozan. Don’t get me wrong, DeRozan is a very talented player and is spectacular at what he specializes in. Unfortunately for Demar, his specialty is better served as a useful bailout mechanism for when the shot clock is winding down, not as a primary source of offense.

So, how can DeRozan improve his game and become a more significant contributor? DeRozan possesses the physical tools and the ball-handling ability that should allow him to get to the rim more often than he currently manages to. He is too talented with the ball and too athletic to not attempt a higher percentage of shots from 0-3 feet.

Furthermore, Derozan has no excuse to not be a “plus” defender with his athleticism and 7’0 wingspan. Derozan must also improve his three-point percentage and take more than 1.7 three- pointers per game. In fact, if DeRozan were to replace all of his mid-range shots with three-point shots and then proceed to shoot 29% from the three, his efficiency would not change.

According to Hoopminer.com, this season DeRozan attempted more shots per game from 10-16 feet than the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks did during the 2012-2013 NBA season and this eye-opening trend has only continued during the subsequent years. This being said, I do not expect Derozan to change as he is one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA and has achieved enormous individual success with his current style of play.

However, as we saw in this year’s playoffs, DeRozan struggles playing off the ball and has a tough time creating for others, which is something he desperately needs to improve upon in order to ascend to the next level in the pantheon of the NBA’s best players.

Overall, DeRozan is far from a complete player, let alone a complete scorer, and has his work cut out for him should he want to enter the category of the truly elite NBA players.