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December 20, 2010
The Clipboard
Aminu's Three-Point Shooting

by Sebastian Pruiti

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As a sophomore at Wake Forest last year, Al-Farouq Aminu shot just 27.3 percent from the three-point line. Despite the poor shooting percentage, Aminu still saw fit to take 2.1 threes per game (66 threes in 31 games). So it was no surprise that when he announced that he would be entering the NBA draft last season, many people questioned his ability to make the longer three-point shot in the pros. In the past, we have seen good shooters struggle with the added distance, so it only makes sense that a shooter at Aminu's level would struggle.

Except he isn't. Through Dec. 17, Aminu was shooting 48.2 percent from the three-point line. Initially, you might just think it was a fluke. However, Aminu's three-point shooting has stayed in the 40-50 percent range despite the fact that he is attempting the same number of threes per game as he did in college, 2.1 (56 attempts in 27 games). Is this an extended hot streak, one that will see Aminu come back to earth in time? Or has he turned himself into a three-point shooter over the last few months?

The best way to examine this topic is to look at Aminu's shooting form from college and compare it to the technique he's shown so far in the NBA. If his shooting form is exactly the same, than his shooting percentage is probably due to regress. If there is a significant change in Aminu's his form, his hot shooting could prove to be something we can expect to persist.

To start, we should probably look at Aminu's form from when he was at Wake Forest. Here is a video of his shot:

First, lets look at the lower body. Aminu's feet are shoulder width apart, giving him a nice base and he seems to step into his shot smoothly, and he does a nice job of getting good elevation on his jump shot.

As good as Aminu's lower body looks, his upper body is just as bad. First, when Aminu makes the catch he brings the ball down before bringing it back up to his shooting pocket:

College1

Aminu makes the catch up high with the ball over his head. Now, you can't expect him to shoot it without bringing the ball down at all, but you would want him to bring it down to his face or his chin.

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Instead, he brings it way down to his hip as he recoils his body to take his shot. The problem with bringing the basketball down too low is that it adds a lot of wasted motion that is really hard to duplicate. Since being able to duplicate your shooting motion is important to your shot (seriously, go watch Ray Allen shoot), this really hurts your consistency.

College3

As he brings the ball back up to his shooting pocket, Aminu has both of his elbows flared out. Now you can live with the elbow of the guide hand (Aminu's left hand) flying out a little bit, but you can't have that happen with both arms. Ideally, you want the elbow of your shooting hand directly under the basketball so as you rise up and start to take the shot, your elbow and eyebrow is lined up. This helps ensure that you are shooting on a straight path with proper rotation (proper rotation is that backspin that helps shooters get those "shooter's rolls.") Having your elbow out like Aminu has it here usually results in a side-winding rotation that has the ball bouncing out off the rim more often than not.

College4

You often hear coaches say, "I don't have to look at the shot to see if it goes in, I just have to look at the follow-through." That is definitely true in this case. You have Aminu's left elbow flying out there, and his shooting hand on his follow through really shows the problem with having his right elbow so far out. With his elbow out, his follow-through is taken away from the rim (if Aminu's elbow is under the ball, the follow through will be right at the rim).

Here is Aminu's shot as a pro this season, and you are going to notice, not much has changed:

We aren't going to really concern ourselves with Aminu's lower body, because again, it looks solid. So let's look at the upper body, and while Aminu again brings the ball down, I really want to focus on his shooting form and follow through:

Pro1

Again, as Aminu brings the basketball to his shooting pocket, you see both elbows flying out there, almost identical to his form in college.

Pro2

Looking at Aminu's release, you see it again almost identical to his college shooting release (though in fairness, it isn't as exaggerated).

So what does this tell us? In my opinion, this tells me that Aminu's early three-point shooting is to some extent a fluke, and we will see his percentage drop over the course of the year. I mean we have already seen it to some extent. If you look at Aminu's three-point shooting percentage by month, you see it dropping each month. In October, Aminu shot 66 percent from the three point line (on 3 attempts), in November, he shot 52.9 percent (on 34 attempts), and finally in December, he has shot 36.8 percent (on 19 attempts).



Also, don't forget that Aminu struggled from deep during the preseason. In Summer League, Aminu shot just 29.6 percent on 27 attempts in five games. During the preseason, Aminu shot 33.3 percent from the three-point line on 24 attempts in eight games.

Could Aminu have figured out a way to shoot effectively with his form? It's possible. We see good shooters with funky forms all the time--Kevin Martin immediately comes to mind--but to go from shooting 29 percent in Summer League to 48.2 percent during the regular season? Without making major changes to your form? I just don't buy it.

The 2010-11 Pro Basketball Prospectus is now available in paperback form on Amazon.com. For sample chapters and more information, see our book page.

You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at twitter.com/@SebastianPruiti.

Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Sebastian by clicking here or click here to see Sebastian's other articles.

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