Is Courtney’s Lower Body The Reason For His Slump?

Watching Courtney shoot the basketball is starting to get real frustrating.  I am not talking about him as a player really, but this slump is almost unexplainable and incredibly frustrating.  Yes, his shooting percentage was supposed to go down with his increased usage, and his detractors are going to say he was never that good to begin with, but every time Courtney makes a correct decision (for example, pump faking a three, taking two dribbles and pulling up), it sucks to see him miss.  If he can get his shot going, Brook would have more room to operate and the opposing defenses wouldn’t be able to load up on Devin.

So why can’t Courtney hit a shot? I have been watching his shot all year looking for something, and I haven’t been able to find it.  Up top, his form is very good.  His elbow in, hands in the right spot, and he has a very good release.  On Saturday though, I noticed something down low, something with his feet.  As a shooter, you want your feet to not only be shoulder width apart, but you want them pointing to the basket.  If your feet are pointing towards the basket, your whole body by nature is forced to be aligned with the basket.  This gives you the best chance to make a basket.  You also want to land where you take off on jump shots.  In the NBA, players tend to fade more often (because defenders are tall and good at contesting shots), but you still want to be taking off and landing more often than not.

On Saturday against the Lakers, I noticed that Courtney’s feet were too close together, and they were pointing in the wrong direction.  I decided to look back at past games to see if this was a one time thing, or if this is something that could be leading to his shooting troubles.  On his makes, Courtney usually does everything right from up top to down low.  On his misses though, his feet are usually in the wrong spot, and he has a tendency to fade.

Both of the following clips (showing what he does right and what he does wrong) are from the Atlanta game.  I decided to pull two clips from the same game, because they were both from the same spot on the court pretty much (both are also jumpers off the dribble, where footwork is most important), and it shows how something like this can vary from shot-to-shot nevermind from game to game.  Even though these are from the same game, I went through 10-15 games, and noticed the same things throughout.

Shooting Done Wrong:

Alright, we are going to look at what Courtney does wrong first.  As I was watching through the games, I noticed that he does one of these things that I will be pointing out more often than not.  Here he lumps it all together in one shot attempt:

Courtney gets the ball on the wing with Mike Bibby covering him.  As he switches the ball to his left hand, he attacks the basket, and he will be pulling up for a jumper at the elbow.

As Courtney gathers, he just looks awkward and off-balance to me as his lower-body isn’t totally under his upper-body.  This is a problem, because when you take off like this, it just throws everything out of wack.  Also…

…Look where Courtney’s feet are pointing.  They aren’t pointing towards the basket, but to the left of the basket.  As I mentioned earlier, you want your feet pointing towards the basket, because if they are, that means the rest of the body is forced to point towards the basket.  When you shoot the ball, it tends to go in the direction where your feet are pointing.  It is no surprise that Courtney’s shot misses to the left here.

As Courtney takes off, he starts to lean back.  Like I said, because NBA defenders are so good at staying on the ball, players tend to fade away more often than not.  You don’t want to be fading on a pull up jumper at the elbow though.  Usually on a jumper, you want your back to be straight.

Also, you usually want to land where you take off from when you shoot a jumper.  Here, Courtney lands a foot or two behind where he took off from (the yellow dot indicates that), he also lands on one foot, which is a sign of a player fading too much.  When you take off and go up straight, both of your feet tend to land on the ground at the same time.  The only shooter I have seen do this and hit shots consistently was Reggie Miller.

Like I said, Courtney kind of lumped every mistake he tends to make into one shot attempt here.  He usually does one of these things wrong on an attempt, but even just one of these mistakes is enough to throw off a shot.

Shooting Done Right:

OK, now that we have seen what Courtney has done wrong (and it is happening more often than not), let’s look at him doing everything right:

Here Courtney Lee is driving to the hoop as Mike Bibby covers him.  He is going to be pulling up for a jumper at the elbow.

The two yellow dots are Courtney’s toes, he has got them pointed towards the basket.  His feet are under him, and he is on balance as he gets ready to take off.  Another thing I wanted to point out is his elbow (because it is so apparent in this screen shot), that is perfect shooting form.  More reason why this slump is so frustrating.

As Courtney rises up, there is no fade, and his back stays straight through the whole jump shot.  That is perfect form and something that he needs to try to recreate on every jump shot.

Despite the YES scoreboard being in the way (seriously, I watch a lot of league pass, and YES’s scoreboard is probably the most annoying.  They need to go to the long one along the bottom like everyone else…but I digress), Courtney lands in just about the same spot he took off from, which is the elbow.  Also, both feet hit the ground at the same time as well.  This is a perfect jumper, no wonder it went it.

Just from what I have seen rewatching Courtney’s games, I think that Courtney’s inconsistency in his shooting is due to his lower-body.  The fact that Courtney likes to get really high on his jumpers (unlike guys like Michael Redd who are set shooters, getting no more than a few inches off the ground) magnifies every mistake he makes with his lower body (especially the leaning, sometime when he takes his jumpers, it looks like he is going to fall on his butt he starts leaning so far back).  The good news is that this stuff is a lot easier to correct than if he was doing something wrong up top with his release.  Like I said (and I showed), his form up top is usually as close to perfect as you can get, so I am confident that Courtney can get this turned around and become a threat from the outside.

Something that I really wanted to do was go through some Orlando games from last year, to see if this is just  a bad habit he picked up.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find enough clips to do that.  I am going to keep my open though, to see if I can find some stuff, so we may be revisiting this at a later date.