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How Basketball Works

Shooting mechanics, the nature of positions, the future of big men, how to enjoy a Knicks game, and more essential concepts from the modern NBA

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

After a long summer of topless championship parades, free-agency meetings in the Hamptons, Snapchat mishaps, and gold medals, the NBA is finally, truly, really, almost back. The start of training camp marks the beginning of our NBA Preview.

During How Basketball Works Week, we looked at the scouts, stats, coaches, and tactical developments that are shaping the game.

“The Completely Absurd and Definitive Guide to NBA Free Throws,” Shea Serrano

“A couple of months ago, I received a text from a person that I publicly like a lot and secretly hate a little (these are my favorite kinds of relationships, FYI). It was a short text that required a long answer. This was the whole thing: ‘Who’s had the best free throw routine in the NBA?’”

“Meet the NBA Shot Doctors,” Kevin O’Connor

“Think about where some of these players might be if it weren’t for the shooting instruction they received at one time or another in their life. Every pro golfer has a swing coach; every baseball team has a hitting coach and a pitching coach. But not every basketball team has a coach who specializes in shooting mechanics, despite it being the most important asset in the sport.”

“James Harden Is the Changing Face of the Point Guard Position,” Jonathan Tjarks

“Things are changing fast. If Kobe and Wade were 18-year-olds today, talent evaluators would probably consider them point guards. The modern NBA is a point guard’s league, but the definition of the position is changing. And James Harden might just be its new face.”

“At Home on the Midrange With Evan Turner,” Danny Chau

“Turner might see himself as one of the last of a dying breed, but he embodies a very modern route to cult appeal in the current NBA landscape. At some point in the progression of the Michael Jordan tree of swingmen, there came a divergence: The wild success and popularity of players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter created a sublayer of expectations for the young wings who came after. Most of them didn’t possess nearly enough talent to lift up entire franchises, but they certainly had the bravado.”

“Finding a New Future for the NBA’s Low-Post Big Men,” Kevin O’Connor

“With more and more bigs shooting from behind the arc, some bigs today don’t even venture inside the paint. Modern teams have taken a page from the international basketball playbook by featuring 3-pointers and constant motion.”

“The Aaron Gordon Experiment,” Danny Chau

“Barring injury, his freak athleticism hasn’t yet reached its peak, which is terrifying. Gordon’s physical capabilities resound in his ability to chase a block or throw down a putback even when he mistimes his jump, but they aid him most in the intangible aspects of his player development. His athleticism affords him time and a greater margin for error.”

“What Is the Best Night Any Celebrity Has Ever Had at Madison Square Garden?” Sam Donsky

“A lot of celebrities have had a lot of fun at Madison Square Garden over the years. But who has had the most fun? Which great time … has been the greatest time?

What is the best night that anyone has ever had at MSG?

It’s time to squash our fears and kiss our ghosts. This is the story of celebrities dicking around at Madison Square Garden. This is the unabridged history of fun.”

“How the Nuggets Built Their International Basketball Army,” Jonathan Tjarks

“When it comes to international players, the Nuggets have become the new Spurs. Since 2011, they have acquired a whopping 11 players born outside the United States, and their hit rate has been remarkable.”