In the doldrums of the NBA offseason, there is only one thing we can depend on: videos of players attempting to fix their shot. It’s a tradition like no other, and for good reason. Summers are for projection and improvement, and getting better from the perimeter has become a leaguewide mandate. But some players have more to prove than others—and that’s when the grainy footage starts rolling out. For fans, it’s instant catnip; for players, it’s an easy way to fuel the hype machine. Here’s a shootaround of four shooting-drill All-Stars of summer, and what an expanded perimeter game could mean for their upcoming season:
Los Angeles Lakers Lonzo Ball is back at it. New shooting form or nah? ♂️ #Born2Ball #zo2 #NBA #lakeshow pic.twitter.com/kTmHdAbQPN— Big Baller Brand Media (@theballera) August 28, 2018
What is that I see (Besides a terrible camera angle)? A reduced hitch, little to no hesitation, and no exaggerated diagonal motion that makes it look like Lonzo is dabbing while shooting? It’s only 10 seconds of footage, but it’s enough to see that Ball’s shooting form has apparently straightened out. Lonzo may have had an up-and-down rookie season, but there were so many high-level facets of his game—his passing, defense, IQ, and rebounding; it was a shame his shooting wasn’t one of them. To be a core part of these LeBron James–led Lakers, his jumper has to improve. Last season, Lonzo shot 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3. That’s not going to cut it in an offense that will generate countless drive-and-kick opportunities for the players around LeBron.
Lonzo is still young but the spotlight has only gotten brighter, and raising his percentage to at least league average (36.2 percent last season) would change the entire trajectory of his career. Breaking old habits won’t be easy, but, as the video shows, there’s potential to fix what’s broken. Now he just has to do it in a game, with LeBron staring him down, no less. No pressure.
Andre Drummond and Hassan Whiteside
For Drummond and Whiteside, success behind the arc is more of a luxury than a necessity. The two big men aren’t natural-born 3-point shooters and weren’t brought up as such over their careers. But in a league that values spacing above all else, the ability to hit an open 3-pointer is as essential to the position as the ability to rebound. As such, old-school centers like Whiteside and Drummond must prove to everyone that stepping out is something they can do.
Andre Drummond is working on adding a 3-Point shot this off-season (via @andredrummond) pic.twitter.com/ctXV0GpzRy— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) June 22, 2018
Whiteside more so than Drummond.
The Miami Heat’s $98 million man has spent much of the summer showing the world that he can hit a 3—in workout videos, pro-am pickup games, you name it. On Wednesday night, Whiteside posted a video of himself shooting 3s on his Instagram Story. It appeared to be a shooting drill to simulate the catch-and-shoot motion of a trailing big man. Except, he was tossing the ball forward to himself as he stepped into the shot. But he had two assistants with him in the gym—why didn’t he just practice the play for real?
The big man doesn’t belong in the post any more than he belongs behind the arc. NBA players have to do everything now. But it’s fair to wonder how much these two nonshooters can improve over the course of a summer. Drummond has shot 30 3-pointers in his six-year career and made only five. Whiteside is technically perfect from behind the arc over his entire NBA career, but he’s taken only two, both last season. The bulk of their value still lies in their elite rebounding ability and their strength as screeners in the pick-and-roll. Sure, hitting 3s is a promising development, but no team is running set plays to get either of the two open for 3s. Not yet, at least.
BEN SIMMONS JUMPER ALERT pic.twitter.com/MFcuXhIpIk— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) August 23, 2018
That sound you hear is “A Whole New World” playing in the minds of the entire Sixers fan base as they imagine the endless possibilities of next season. What if one of their two best basketball players could, you know, shoot?
It’s remarkable how much Simmons has lowered the bar for himself. After a Rookie of the Year campaign when he did not attempt a single normal (non-heaving) 3-pointer and shot 80 percent of his attempts from inside 10 feet, he proved it’s possible to have a successful season in today’s NBA without a real shot. But what a shame that would be if that extended through the rest of his career. Pairing his unique point-forward game with a complete inability to shoot is like enjoying a fine Bordeaux with a pack of Kraft Singles. Simmons can be more than the great player he already was in Year 1. It’s simple: He just has to take long-range shots. That’s it.
Simmons’s gravitational pull is already so strong due to his surgical passing and flawless movement. If he even threatens to hit a shot, defenses will have to adjust, and the dimensions of the court will revert back in his favor. His shot could make the difference the next time the Sixers face the Celtics in the playoffs. In the video above, the shot looks promising, but I won’t believe it until I see him pull up for a 3 in a game. Switch hands if you have to, Ben, but just start taking those shots.