The Danger Signs of Poor Basketball Shooting

How to tell if your team needs work on shooting!

A few years ago I was watching a women’s professional ABL basketball game and I was struck by how ineffective were the shooting styles of most of them. Only a few were what I would call good or great shooters. I see the same in the men’s game, at all levels, still today. Few really understand how to shoot “lights out” … all the time! The thought occurred to me that, though I can see what the problems are, probably most coaches are not seeing what I see. This article is an attempt to describe what to look for. If you see these danger signs, realize your team needs to work on shooting because the flaws I point out are probably going to lead to missed shots. Missed shots at crucial times will lose games.


1) Flat Trajectories / Little Use of Body & Leg
2) Set Points Not Aligned with Eye / Too Far Overhead!
3) No Inertia in the Shot Motion!
4) The Release – Slinging or Throwing vs. Pushing
5) Jerky or Stiff Follow Through
6) Funny Spins


1) Flat Trajectories
Watch your players and the team as a whole while they’re shooting in practice or as they warm up before a game. If shots are getting only a foot or two (three feet for longer shots) above the rim, then you’re probably in trouble. Such “flat” shots have a very small target and they come in very “hot,” meaning gravity has not had time to slow them down. This is usually caused by not using any or enough lower body power in the shots.

If the apex of the arch of shots (the bottom of the ball) is approaching the top of the backboard or higher, then you can know the players are using more leg drive (what I call UpForce) to power their shots, thus giving larger, more forgiving targets, softer landing. Better shooters put up shots more like mortars, very high. Think of it this way: YOU HAVE TO GO UP IN ORDER TO COME DOWN! And a more upward action gives gravity a chance to slow the ball’s flight.

2) Set Points Not Aligned with Shooting Eye / Brought Too Far Overhead!
Observe the “Set Point” of your players. This is where they bring the (back of the) ball before starting the Release. (For a Free Throw, there’s no need to pause at that point in the motion.)

If the Set Point is aligned with the ear or shoulder, accuracy and consistency are more difficult. If it’s too far overhead, a mostly horizontal motion is required to get the ball to the target. Better shooters have the ball in front of the head in line with the shooting eye and basket and then push the ball upward from there. I see otherwise great players take the ball too far overhead and decrease their odds of making shots because the ball flight is so flat and hot.

3) No Inertia in the Shot Motion!
“Inertia” is from Newton’s First Law of Motion and means that the ball is moving and in line with eye and basket before the Release, and, by shooting on the way up, that energy is captured and used in the shot. This makes Accuracy much easier! If you bring the ball up off-line, or if you bring it up moving and in line AND THEN STOP, you lose any Inertia possible.

4) The Release – Slinging or Throwing vs. Pushing Motions!
Watch how your players power their shots. Are their Releases slinging or throwing motions, or are they more of a pushing action? Slinging and throwing create horizontal ball flight – a flat trajectory. They also mean that the arm and hand muscles are doing most of the powering. A pushing action — with passive wrist and hand — is more reliable and is more upward. The key to great shooting is to rely on the larger, lower body muscles to provide most of the power and keep the Release down to a simple, pushing action, always the same speed and force. Once you have that down, varying arch is how you solve the puzzle of distance.

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