Shot Selection and Shooting

There are three main reasons why players miss shots in games. Immediately we think of poor mechanics and we would estimate that 80% of all missed shots at the high school and middle school levels are due to poor technique. We believe improper mechanics is the result of 70% of misses at the collegiate levels.


So what are the other two factors that determine misses from made shots? Shot selection and anxiety. Today we will focus on shot selection and next week we will look at players having too much anxiety when shooting.


Quality shot selection is crucial in shooting high percentages. All you have to do is look at the San Antonio Spurs the past few years and you will notice they took open looks and they make a lot of shots. Notre Dame and Wisconsin mens teams took open looks this season and made shots. So do the Atlanta Hawks.


How do you get open perimeter looks? We believe it starts with dribble penetration. If you attack the defense via the dribble and can get to the paint, the defense has to make a decision–stop the ball or stay at home on the shooters and not focus on helping.


Another way to get better looks is to have “bigs” that will pass when the defense starts doubling down. The Hawks have a great offense and one reason is that they have two of the best passing big men in the game.


It is imperative for a coach to stop practice when a player takes a bad shot. Poor shot selection will continue to get worse unless there are consequences (running, push-ups, limited playing time in games). Watching film with the team is very important to understand what a good shot is and what is not.


We get asked the same question by coaches and players often, “How do you shoot when somebody is on you?” It is utterly amazing that we get asked this each day. Basketball is a simple game. If you are guarded, you pass or drive. If you are open, you shoot. If you MUST shoot because of time running down, you uses a fade or a step back.


As coaches, we need to explain the idea as much as possible that “You don’t shoot when somebody is on you.” We need to constantly tell our players that a defender that forces you to take an off balance shot is winning the battle. An off balanced shot, especially at the middle school and high school levels, is a bad shot.

Please understand that while you can have great shot selection as a team or from an individual player, it is still comes down to making it. In other words, don’t forget about the importance of shooting technique and form.

Recently I spoke with a long time assistant coach at one of the top D-1 programs in the country (they are athletic) and asked him, “Why is your team so bad at shooting (they are one of the worst shooting teams in the nation)?” He responded, “We take a lot of bad shots.”

This poor individual is literally living in such denial that he can’t see straight. I responded, “So are you telling me that every jump shot you missed this year was due to taking bad shots.” He said emphatically, “Yes.” The reality is that his team does take poor shots, but the true answer lies in that they can’t shoot because of poor form.

Good shot selection and good mechanics really go hand in hand. It’s like peanut butter and jelly and salt and pepper. It is hard to be a quality shooting team without technique and shooting an open shot. Please reiterate to your players that a good shot is an open shot.