Building Your Range
Steph Curry has been great for the game of basketball. He's made shooting cool again. I'm about as critical as anyone about shooters, but even I agree he's probably the greatest shot-maker that the game has ever seen. That doesn't mean I think he has the best form or that others couldn't beat him in a shooting contest on a given day or put up better numbers for a season. I just mean that when you factor everything in, he's one of the best at putting the ball in the basket.
With every great player, there is something that young players see and want to emulate, even if it is something that would make their head coach cringe. With Steph, it is probably his range. He is so good from outside that he's probably one of only five players in the world that shouldn't think twice about letting it fly off the dribble from 30 feet. Steph’s head coach probably doesn't grimace nearly as much when Steph launches from four feet behind the line nearly as much as if someone else did. And young players love it.
They ask all the time, “how do I build my range?” Or, “I want to be able to shoot threes better, what do I need to do?”
I have a few answers for you, but you probably aren't going to like all of them. Some of them are the honest truths that many players don't like to hear, but need to take to heart.
Building range takes time. A lot of time. Not “a couple of weeks” a-lot either. I'm talking years. You need to be patient and realistic. While there are little things that you can do to better synchronize your shooting motion and increase your range a little, that pales in comparison to how much you'll gain just by getting older by three years.
There are basically no shooters that can shoot the ball well (properly) from that range when they are 10 years old. Sure, they may be good for their age, but if we compare them to good shooters a few years older, they will probably lose by a wide margin. The reality is that 10 year olds aren't physically strong enough to shoot the ball 20+ feet without creating a lot of negative energy and developing bad habits.
But don't worry. I can guarantee that three years later they will be much stronger. You just can't expect that to happen in one day/week/month/year. Malcolm Gladwell is an author who wrote about people who master their skills. He proposed in his book ”Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate (proper) practice to become world class at a skill. Make sure you spend your practice time wisely, using your proper shooting technique on every shot. You don’t want to waste your hours.
I heard someone use this expression when talking about lifting weights. The squeaky point is the point where the lifter feels like they can't possibly lift the weight again, but their spotter gives them the slightest bit of help and keep the lift moving.
Every shooter has their own squeaky point. Let’s use the example of 19 feet; the shooter can shoot with great form and get great results, but if they step back one more foot to 20 feet, they know that their shot form changes and the results drop off dramatically. It could be between 19 and 20 feet, 12 and 13, or 30 to 31 feet. Everyone has one, and everyone's distance is different. For me personally, it is around the college three point line. One foot inside the line and I trust my shot. On the line I know I'm not as good. I can still make them, and most people probably won't see a difference. But i know there is. I can feel it.
Just like a weightlifter who can't lift 225lbs shouldn't just sit at the bar trying to lift that weight, we need to find where your honest squeaky point is and live in that range. One big step forward from that point, back to that point, but not beyond. This is where you should be getting the majority of your shot repetitions. Don't break form.
I'm not going to get into a lot of detail here because this isn't my area of expertise, but if you want to increase your range you need to be getting stronger. Seek out a trained professional to give you advice about how to do this.
SYNCHRONIZE YOUR SHOT
Players need to learn how to have their whole shot working together in order to maximize their range. They need to have their feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbow, arm, wrist and hand all extending correctly in tandem to maximize their power. Want a simplified version? Push with your feet the same time your elbow lifts from your shot pocket so that your legs and elbow extend at the same time your wrist snaps.
Lastly, be smart about the shots you are taking. Several players have reached out to me on Instagram and Twitter to say they would like to shoot the ball from 25+ feet. Last time I checked, the goal was for your team to score more points than the other team, and both teams are going to get roughly the same number of possessions. Most players shooting from 25 feet away is tough because they’re basically saying, “no player on my team is capable of making any shot more often than I make this one.” The San Antonio Spurs have an offensive principle that is boiled down to a simple phrase: “good to great.” Turn down a mediocre shot or a good shot to find a great one. I’d guess that within one or two passes, your team could find a higher percentage shot than a 25 footer, so don't be selfish. Don't waste your time practicing a shot that no one on the team wants you to shoot. Work on your free throws instead.
So, be smart about your range. A lot of the tips that people give to increase your range actually sacrifice accuracy, which I would never encourage (shooting is 100% about accuracy and a better option is always one pass away). Be patient. Invest in the long term, not a quick fix.