Breaking Down LaMelo Ball's Unorthodox Jump Shot

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterSeptember 28, 2020

LaMelo Ball of the Illawarra Hawks shoots during their game against the Sydney Kings in the Australian Basketball League in Sydney, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Hornets will consider drafting LaMelo Ball in the top three Nov. 18. Others will debate if it's worth offering young prospects, future picks or an established veteran to move up to take him.

Deciding whether he's deserving of such an investment may come down to a front office's belief in his unorthodox jump shot, which yielded mixed results during a shortened season in Australia. 

A lot goes into assessing a prospect's jump shot, including its fundamentals, touch and versatility. After talking with scouts and diving deep into the tape, we broke down the elements of Ball's shooting stroke to paint a clearer picture of what it could look like during his peak NBA years.

        

Shot mechanics

Between Ball's unconventional shot and low percentages overseas, teams have expressed a sense of nervousness over his shooting and likelihood of improving. Though holes exist in the logic comparing him to his brother, Lonzo, scouts often bring up the elder Ball's odd form and the fact that his three-point success at UCLA (.412) hasn't translated to the NBA (.341).

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While similarities exist in their releases, LaMelo's shot is its own kind of weird, mostly due to his hand placement on the ball.

Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

          

Hand placement/release

Hand placement and a low release result in Ball's elbows flaring out and a funky delivery. The use of his off-hand shows LaMelo keeping his left thumb on the ball for longer than most. It almost looks like he's flinging a chest pass at the rim, which may affect his touch. 

Another issue may stem from where he holds the ball before letting it fly: on his lower left side, similar to Lonzo, leading to a left-to-right movement. It's possible he does this for the surprise factor, playing it casual by putting the ball outside the shooting pocket before abruptly launching a three over his man.

I'm not so concerned with the low release point in front of his face. We've seen successful shot-makers release from there, including Trae Young, and Ball is 6'7" and possibly growing. He also pulls off nifty moves for creating separation, so he can get away with shooting it from a lower point. 

             

Inconsistent mechanics 

Inconsistent mechanics are a theme for Ball, especially with his legs. 

Sometimes he points his toes sideways instead of squaring them to the rim. Sometimes he kicks his legs out, or his feet touch in the air. Sometimes he shoots set shots, barely leaving the floor.

And sometimes he's perfectly set, balanced and stepping into his shot. 

It's not far-fetched to suggest inconsistent mechanics are tied to his inconsistent results. 

           

Shooting off the dribble (11-of-43 in half court)

Given how much LaMelo should have the ball, shooting off the dribble is a key skill for his outlook. And while the numbers weren't convincing in the NBL, there are enough reasons to remain optimistic. 

          

Pull-up

Ball's most convincing made jump shots came on pull-ups off dribbles while moving toward the basket. He looked like a natural perimeter scorer on certain possessions when he'd step into his jumper and rise with balance from a strong lower-body foundation created from set feet. 

           

Rhythm/dance dribbles

Despite looking sharp on classic pull-ups in ball-screen situations, he didn't attempt them often, looking more interested in turning the corner or using his floater. In terms of shooting off the bounce, Ball prefers using dribble moves (through the legs, hang dribbles, crossovers) to generate rhythm into his three-ball. 

Some might call them hero shots. Ball can get these looks off whenever he wants, a blessing and a curse, as it allows him to score from anywhere on anyone but also results in low-percentage shots while teammates stand and watch. 

              

Jump-shot selection 

LaMelo is clearly a shot-maker—he hit 24 threes in 13 games with the Hawks. Poor shot selection played a role in his disappointing 27.9 percent mark (including one exhibition).

Ball leaned too heavily on the dance-and-fire method for shot creation and scoring opportunities. He couldn't resist the quick-trigger pull-ups in transition or the spotlight in isolation against older players he'd try to embarrass. 

However, he'll likely be surrounded by more creators and scorers in the NBA, where he won't have as much freedom to dominate shot clocks and showboat.

       

Catch-and-shoot (11-of-29 in half court)

Becoming a threatening catch-and-shooter may be important for LaMelo, who could spend time playing off D'Angelo Russell, Stephen Curry or Devonte' Graham if he goes in the top three. And despite his promising results on limited attempts, NBA shooting coaches will have plenty to emphasize and correct.

         

Poor shot preparation 

While playing some time off the ball in Australia, an unfamiliar feeling for Ball, he demonstrated underwhelming body language and engagement. And it seems fair to say it affected his accuracy, given how unprepared he looked to shoot off the catch.

His shot preparation was poor, to the point where it looked like he'd purposely appear uninterested so defenders would start to sag off him. Often, he'd catch the ball flat-footed and standing straight up, and then have to dip the ball and generate power from a stationary position. His spot-up shooting came from mostly upper-body work. 

            

NBA range

On a positive note, Ball flashed deep range, something we saw throughout high school. The more range he has from the wings, the more he'll be able to stretch the defense.

It's also worth noting that he seemed to have the most fluidity and balance while shooting from handoffs, where the ball is dropped right into his pocket as he hops into the shot. 

The fact that he can comfortably connect from 25 feet without the proper fundamentals is encouraging. Improved focus and NBA coaching seem capable of raising his percentages over time. 

          

Buying or Selling Ball's jumper

Scouts are trying to decide where Ball's jump shot will top out. Once they've done so, they have to determine how it will impact his effectiveness, particularly for those who remain skeptical regarding his form and shot selection. 

I haven't heard any scout say they think Ball will suddenly evolve into an efficient shooter, and neither do I. But there is a trajectory that takes him into the 35 percent range on volume attempts. And if his jumper gets there, when paired with his creation, elite passing, floater touch and versatile finishing package, that should be enough for Ball to produce star-caliber offense. 

Regardless, I'm buying Ball's streaky shot-making skills once his confidence starts pumping. There will be stretches when he catches fire. He made at least four three-pointers in three NBL games and at least two in three more. 

His mechanics need tweaking, but the low release doesn't scare me off. It's the shot preparation, posing midair after releasing and poor decisions that are troublesome. They're also correctable.

While it's special playmaking that fuels Ball's potential and likability in this draft, tempered optimism about his development as a shooter has kept his name atop our big board all year. 

                    

Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports