When watching a high-level shooter in action, it's natural to be drawn to the release point. That's where the action is -- where pure mechanics meet defensive pressure, and between them battle for a potential score. It's from a player's shooting motion that we can pick out obvious tics and technical flaws, all in the hope of making a bit more sense of an art that's often oversimplified as a matter of makes and misses. While simple and direct in its execution, every jump shot is a composite of its circumstances. Every attempt is specific to its context.
And it all begins far earlier than the release, as many shooters work tirelessly to create space before ever touching the ball. It's one thing to approach shooting as a stationary art, but another entirely to make a catch on the move, square up, and fire up a jumper before the defense has a chance to close the gap. Ray Allen, one of the greatest (and most meticulous) shooters to ever play the game, target="_blank">reflected on those specifics to NBA TV in 2011:
Shooting, for me, is not about my upper body. It's really about my lower body. So when I'm shooting the ball like I need to, I jump and it's one motion. And I always know why I missed it: Short -- legs, long -- I'm aiming it. I always can tell right away.
You've gotta be able to turn your body and your feet at the same time and still come into your shot -- and be going up as if you were standing there.
All of which brings us to J.J. Redick, a marksman for the Clippers who executes that very formula to perfection. Redick, like Allen, is a textbook shooter. His form is target="_blank">a model on instructional DVDs, fit for freeze framing to demonstrate his ideal vertical lift and the perfect placement of his elbow. Yet Redick's work, too, begins with his feet, where he uses a slightly unusual cadence to both catch and square up to the basket in one fluid motion. This I call the "shooter's hop" -- a quirk of footwork by which Redick essentially takes a jump stop on his catch to line up his attempt instantly. Watch Redick on these catch-and-shoot sequences (first at full speed, then at half speed), and pay particular attention to his feet:
The vast majority of the league's top shooters (Ray Allen, Klay Thompson, etc.) simply opt to step into their three-pointers rather than hop as Redick does. That makes sense, given how tricky it can be for even pro-level athletes to make a full, balanced jump out of a preliminary jump stop. This approach is certainly unusual, in fact, that it deviates even from the more conventional approach that Redick relied on during his decorated collegiate career. On that stage, Redick was able to complete his cuts with a simple step-through, which provided him room to turn and fire without issue. He set the all-time NCAA record for career three-pointers made, while in the process converting 40.6 percent of his attempts. Yet in adapting to the NBA, Redick -- then with the Magic -- seems to have acknowledged the need for modification, and made his shooting process more efficient by consolidating its steps. The hop might not seem like a dramatic change, but it saves a half-beat on every catch and affords Redick an extra moment to gather and release before a defender can fully recover. That makes for a world of difference in a league where opponents can close out in an instant, and has done wonders for Redick's long-term development as a quick-fire shooter.