During the preseason, Derrick Rose was shooting at a torrid rate. Since the regular season has started, he’s been shooting at a horrid rate. So, is his jump shot, which he worked so much on during his recovery, really improved? Or were we reading too much into preseason results?
Shooters get hot and cold, and three-game sample sizes are not a fair assessment of anything, especially when there are other kinds of shots to confuse the issue. Rose is struggling all over the place, especially with what used to be his go-to shot, his little tear-drop runner.
He is still adjusting to the pace of the regular season. His competitive nature isn’t helping things either as he’s trying to force himself on the game rather than let the game come to him, which is, in turn, causing a plethora of turnovers and forced shots.
Having said all that, his issues all be summed up in one word: “rust.” (Admittedly, considerably more than I thought would be there based on his preseason performance. I was clearly wrong on that one.) Having said that, once he settles down and finds his rhythm, he should be able to work that out.
Long-term though, what are the differences in his jumper, and can we expect to see a better shot than he had before he was injured?
Let’s take a look at the actual shot. First, here’s his shot before the injury.
Now here’s his shot since he returned.
There are two things that are evident improvements in it that should stay with him once the rust shakes off, because these are improvements in the fundamentals of his jump shot.
The first thing is his set. One of the most important aspects to the mechanics of a jump shot is the lift that you get under it, and lift comes from your set.
Whether it’s a football, baseball, basketball or even a punch you’re throwing, the key in any sport is to generate the force of the throw from your legs, not your arms.
There are a few reasons for this. The most obvious of which is your legs are much stronger than your arms, so you can generate more force using your legs than your arms. The other is that if you’re using your arms for power, you will be less consistent, as your arms won't be doing what they should be doing.
The more you push with your arms, the less consistent your aim will be.
A deeper set means you are using your whole legs, not just your lower legs to get momentum. As you can see in the picture below, Rose is getting deeper into his set now. That means he’s “shooting” with his legs and “aiming” with his arms, which is the ideal.
The angle of a jumper is crucial, not so much because of the angle at which the ball goes up as because of the angle at which it comes down.
The steeper the angle at which it comes down (the closer the angle of the descent of the ball is to being perpendicular to the rim) the more “space” there is around the ball as it passes through the rim, which effectively means the target is bigger.
There is an interesting write-up on angle in the Washington Post, which includes this information.
Success favors a fairly high arch. The ball must pass through the hoop with a little room to spare, and that limits the possibilities. The hoop is 18 inches in diameter, and the men's ball is about 9.5 inches wide (women's about 9.2). So if the men's ball were thrown straight down from above -- that is, at an angle of 90 degrees to the horizontal hoop rim, as in the classic Michael Jordan airborne dunk -- there would be 4.25 inches of free space all around, a comfy margin.
But as the angle decreases and approaches the horizontal, the free space for a "nothing but net" shot gets much smaller. At 55 degrees, it's about 2.5 inches. At 45 degrees, it's down to 1.5 inches. And at 30 degrees, it's basically impossible to get the ball straight into the basket, even with a full scholarship and more tattoos than a Hell's Angels convention.
So, the better the angle you have going up, the steeper the angle the ball has coming down and the more likely it is to be good. As you can see from the side-by-side graphic below (using Rose and the free-throw line as reference points), it appears that Rose has improved the trajectory of his release considerably.
There also appears to be some other minor improvements, which are harder to measure without better quality video and a larger sampling.
For instance, it seems he’s getting a little more backspin on his shot now, (you can’t take a picture of backspin), which is important because it slows the ball down as it approaches the rim. This means there’s less bounce when it hits, decreasing the chance it will rim out.
All of these are fundamental and mechanical changes. They are beyond “getting hot” such as in the example above when Rose lit it up in Atlanta and made six threes. Getting hot doesn’t have staying power. Fundamental changes do.
The changes he made should eventually pan out once the other rust wears off. Rose should eventually start experiencing a career high on his three-point shot.