What’s a game shot, really?

I saw this statement by an NBA scout in an article about the upcoming draft:

I’ll never forget Ray Allen telling a story. You have no idea how hard it is to attempt 20 shots in a game. Try to get 20 quality shots? It’s impossible, no way. When you are the featured player, you are defended differently. Your goal in a game should be getting something he called “free looks” on wide-open shots, and make six of them, knowing that the other 12 are going to be contested, and they are so fucking hard to make. You might go fucking 3-for-12 or 4-for-12, but if you go 6-for-8? OK, now you are 9-for-20 or 10-for-20, and you’re whole again. So, on the night, you are 3-8 on your free looks and then 3-for-12 on your contested ones, then you have those fucking horrible shooting nights.

Obviously few players are the featured shooters against NBA defenses. However, the concept holds true at every level: The best players, and increasingly the best shooters, struggle to get wide open shots like the ones that they practice. One answer is to rely on other players to make open shots, but, in a sense, the defense wins in that situation too. Players have to be prepared to take and make shots that are more complex, and more difficult, than the average practice shot. As I wrote earlier this week about Stephen Curry, when you practice one specific release, rather than experimenting, you are limited. Players need a greater variability in their practice because no two shots are the same, and a great shooter is going to be scouted and well-defended and have to work harder to take good shots.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals


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