Off The Bounce

When we think of “low percentage shots,” we don’t really think of pull up jump shots. The picture we probably have in our minds is a turn around, fall away, or a step back jumper. In the NBA Finals last year, late in a game, JR Smith caught the ball, wide open at the three point line. Instead of taking a high percentage catch and shoot shot, he took a giant hop to his left and faded toward the baseline on his release. He turned a potential high percentage shot into a low percentage shot. On the flip side, Dirk Nowitzki shoots (and makes) a high volume of his shots from the midrange and on many of them, he fades away or jumps off one leg. He takes what may seem like a low percentage shot but is actually a high percentage shot (for him). What I would like to make sure you understand, is that Low Percentage vs High Percentage isn’t a black and white argument; it is a continuum, with many shades of grey.

While shooting a standard one dribble pull up jump shot isn’t the most intimidating shot to learn, it is one of the first that young players encounter as they expand their shooting tool box. They probably learned and became reasonably proficient at lay ups and catch and shoot set shots, and before starting to learn to shooting off the dribble. 

It’s likely that the first lesson they will learn is how many more variables exist when shooting off the dribble, even if they don’t realize that these variables are what cause the drop in accuracy. I hear it often on social media – “Coach, I’m a pretty good shooter on Catch and Shoot shots, but I struggle with shots off the dribble. I don’t understand why. Can you help?”

The first thing I try to explain to these players is that it is perfectly normal to be less proficient on jumpers off the dribble. Think about it… you probably have less time to set up, a defender closer to you, and all this momentum and energy that your body is creating. Plus, you have the dribble to pick up.

In other posts we have talked about the need to have great balance when we shoot, so we won’t go into that here. It’s a small detail, but it’s important and shouldn’t be overlooked; what I’d really like to focus on is picking up the dribble cleanly.

Imagine you were shooting an open shot off the catch, but every pass you received was a bad pass. Your percentage would probably drop, right? Well, it’s the same idea when picking up the dribble. Each dribble jumper begins with you basically throwing yourself a mediocre pass.

What young players don’t know, is at the NBA level we spend a lot of time working on catching that last dribble cleanly. It’s way harder than it sounds.

The first drill I’ll do with NBA players to build this habit is to stand stationary facing the hoop, drill the ball hard into the floor, and try to catch it perfectly in their shooting grip. If they need to adjust their grip at all in order to shoot the ball, then they have to start again without shooting. If they need to move their hands close together – start again. If they need to get the ball off their palm – start again. If they fumble the catch – start again. And it can’t be a gentle dribble. It needs to be hard.

If that NBA player is doing this drill for the first time, it is not uncommon for them to take 10-15 dribbles without getting to shoot once. But as they practice, they improve their ability and we start to introduce more movement and game situations into the drill.

There aren’t many young players that practice this type of drill, nevermind all the layers that we add on top of it to make it more realistic. The only way to improve these shooting off the dribble skills, is to focus on the details and build one detail at a time. These drills work on what seems like a little detail, but will make a huge difference. Every young player should be incorporating these drills into their daily practice.

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