Jump Shots, Set Shots, and Ricky Shots

We all love Ricky Rubio and what he has brought to the Timberwolves franchise.  His injury last season marked an immediate downward spiral from hopefully playoff team to lottery-bound loser.  Part of his recovery process from ACL surgery is regaining his shooting touch.  But before we completely excuse his early woes (before tonight’s game Ricky is shooting 18 percent from the floor, through 9 games) it’s worth pointing out that his field goal percentage last year–when healthy–was also very poor; just 35.7 percent despite being a relatively selective shooter.  From a shot-mechanics perspective, what is Ricky doing wrong?

Let’s start with a couple of great shooters, Ray Allen and Steph Curry.

That’s what a textbook, pure, jump shot looks like.  The right foot slightly ahead of the left.  The slight crouch straightened up into perfect posture as the ball is raised and set, before the proverbial “hand in the cookie jar” release, right at–or slightly before–the peak of his jump.  Ray Allen, the greatest shooter of the modern era, is a good one to copy.

Not a bad one there, either.  Steph Curry is probably the best all-around shooter in the NBA right now.  (I say “all around” because Steve Novak is a better catch-and-shooter, in my view.)  Curry shoots it differently than Allen, from downtown.  You’d probably call Curry’s a set shot, because despite the same sequencing to begin the shot as Ray Ray, Curry releases it sooner.  His legs have straightened, but his toes are still on the ground.  He’s jumping while he shoots it.  But make no mistake–his legs have done most of the work by the time he releases the ball.

Fast forward to 1:35 and notice how Ricky shoots it differently than Allen and Curry.  Ricky sets the ball (cocks it back in front of his right eye) at the same time he bends his knees, then releases his shot at the same time he straightens his legs into his jump.  Some players shoot free throws this way (releasing the ball at the same time they straighten their legs) but almost nobody shoots a jumper that way.  It isn’t even a jumper.  It’s the purest of set shots.

The contrast between this “catch and shoot” form and Ricky’s own dribble jumper is apparent.  You might notice that when Ricky takes a jumper off the dribble, his form will often look much more normal.  That’s because he sets the ball as he jumps and then releases it.  The sequencing is correct on his dribble jumper.

Alternating between weird set shot and normal dribble jumper can’t be good for either shot’s health.  The Timberwolves coaching staff includes Shawn Respert, former Big Ten great and lottery pick.  Respert reportedly works with Timberwolves on their shooting mechanics, and will need to spend quality time with Ricky next summer, overhauling his jumper.  While Ricky, once healthy, will always be a positive contributor due to his defense and imaginative passing, a reliable shot would make him a superstar.  Here’s hoping he goes more the route of Jason Kidd than Rajon Rondo in making mechanical improvements to his jumper and becoming an all-time great.

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