Who's to say what the "correct" form is when it comes to shooting a basketball. Reggie Miller flailed his elbow. Larry Bird cocked the ball behind his head. Michael Jordan shot line drives. Indeed, for every Ray Allen or Klay Thompson picturesque jumper, there are other NBA players doing just fine with their own little quirks.
That said, nobody would ever teach anyone to shoot a basketball like Lonzo Ball. At least, not the way he used to shoot. As the New Orleans Pelicans kicked off training camp, Ball showed off what appeared to be vastly improved shooting mechanics as he drilled shot after shot from the right wing.
If you're even halfway familiar will Ball's old shot, you'll notice right away how he's releasing the ball from a much more straight-on position, square with his forehead, rather than bringing it completely across his body and releasing from the extreme left position for which he's become known. Have a look at the old shot, the flaws of which are broken down nicely in the first part of this video:
Again, there are a lot of good shooters with bad form. At the end of the day it's all muscle memory. If your shot feels natural to you, then it's natural. Which is to say, Ball won't necessarily be a better shooter this season just because he appears to have better form. You would like to think the consistency and efficiency of this new release, and the more relaxed follow through, would lead to improved results. But even if it doesn't, it's going to allow Ball to simply attempt shots he couldn't get off -- at least not cleanly -- in the past.
The release is quicker. When you're a right-handed shooter, it's going to take you longer, if only a split second, to move your release all the way left than it is to take your hand straight up. In the NBA, that split second can be, and often is, the difference between getting a shot off cleanly and having it contested, if not thwarted, by a long-armed closing defender.
To this point, Ball didn't attempt a single 3-point shot last season with a defender within two feet, per NBA.com. Further, when he did shoot, a direct line could be drawn between his shooting percentages and the time he had to get those shots off. Example: when he had the ball for six seconds or more, affording him the time to take a few rhythm dribbles and more easily dictate the space he needs to account for that quirky release, Ball shot 41 percent from deep last season.
By contrast, when he had the ball for two seconds or less, which largely covers catch-and-shoots when he has to release quickly, Ball shot just 31 percent from 3. Imagine a right-handed gunfighter who has to raise his six-shooter on his left side. He's a dead man.
Also, Lonzo's old form all but eliminated the possibility of shooting while moving to his right, because bringing the ball back to his left for the release was bringing it directly back into the defender. Go on YouTube. Look back over Lonzo's highlights. If you find a clean jumper where he's moving to his right, you've won the lottery. Last season, in isolation situations, Lonzo didn't pull up for a single jumper going right, per Synergy.
Now, that is a very small, situational sample, but it illustrates the larger point that Lonzo, in many ways, has been a predictable player with very clear scoring tendencies. If he's going left, he can step back. But if he's going right, a defender can pretty much ignore the threat of him pulling up. With this new release, it appears that might not be the case anymore. Check him out here moving right:
If this actually transfers to real-game action, Lonzo is going to be a much tougher player to defend, particularly out of pick and rolls -- where he has never ranked higher than the 22nd percentile as a scorer, per Synergy. Those struggles can be pretty directly traced to not just Ball's inconsistency as a shooter, but his predictability. You give an NBA defender the head start of knowing half the court is effectively closed off to you as a shooter, and you're in trouble.
We have to keep in mind, of course, that these are a few videos of Lonzo shooting unguarded jumpers in practice. But it's still hard not to get excited. For all the criticism Lonzo has endured through his first two years, most of which has been a product of the hype his dad created before he ever put on an NBA uniform, shooting has been his only true weakness.
He's a very good defender. He's a great rebounder. He has great size and good athleticism. He's a great passer. He has an uncanny court sense and the rare ability to lift an offense without scoring or even controlling the ball. If this guy figures out his shooting, he's going to be an absolute stud. And without getting too far ahead of ourselves, it looks like he's heading in the right direction.