The above video details several issues that have been plaguing Paul George since he transformed into a mediocre scorer. Coach Nick of BBall Breakdown highlights evidence that George has been taking worse shots, failing to get clean catch-and-shoot looks off of screens, and not recognizing when he should exploit a defender one on one.
But the most interesting problem he shows is related to George’s shot mechanics.
“One thing that stands out is his ‘sway,’” says Coach Nick. “Early in the season, on his follow through of his makes, his feet tended to sway together fluidly, allowing his shoulders to relax and a smooth release with good arc.”
Of late, however, there is less consistency.
“Looking at his more recent games, you’ll see him much more vertical with his legs, landing a bit awkwardly on one leg more than the other — his feet split apart in the air, his left leg well behind his right, or landing completely on his left foot with his right foot in the air.”
Watching the video, there is clearly some inconsistency at play, and that is something George has sought to overcome in that past.
Last Summer, he hired Mike Penberty to “to iron out a hitch in his jumper, widen his stance and condition his body to square up to the basket,” according to Pablo Torre’s ESPN The Magazine cover story on Paul George.
A Candace Buckner article in the Indianapolis Star from last November noted that this was the first time George had ever worked with a shooting coach and that the goal was “to improve his shot selection and balance.”
Candace elaborated on the shooting sessions.
At some time during the day or late at night, George and Penberthy would meet to put up 500 shots at Los Angeles Mission College — not exactly the place you’d expect to find an All-Star.
But there he was, George in full Nike regalia, working on his right pivots then left pivots. A hundred shots from moves off the dribble and then a hundred more created in space. Close up, long distance and those mid-range jumpers that he’s now shooting 50 percent or better on this season., according to NBA.com.
There were no water breaks in Penberthy’s sessions. No time to talk about pending contract extensions, not that George wanted to spend time thinking about it anyway. He was focused on improving his downtown touch and George listened intently to Penberthy, affectionately known as “MP3″ during his playing days, as the career 40 percent 3-point shooter shared the keys to consistency. Inspired by Kevin Durant’s recent entry into the 50-40-90 club, George began telling people that he, too, would like to shoot 50 percent from the floor, 40 on 3s and 90 from the free-throw line.
With Indiana circling the toilet bowl, it seems that everyone has a different take on why the Pacers and George are struggling so much. Many people are looking for the big answer. The unified theory, if you will, to explain how it has all fallen apart.
It’s interesting, then, to think that that a small issue like shooting fundamentals could be a partial cause. At least when it comes to George’s poor play. A lot of people want to focus Paul George’s inability to handle the pressure that comes with early success and media attention.
But perhaps more than creating pressure, the success just bred complacency.
Perhaps George just didn’t fully ingrain the muscle memory that allowed him to shoot better and as he has stopped focusing on mechanics as he did early in the year, his shot has become unreliable. And as he has slowly regressed into just launching any old way without proper technique, the unreliability of his jumper has infested everything else. Maybe he doesn’t know why he is missing so many once-easy shots and so he is now over-thinking everything and trying to get back whatever spark it was early in the year that made everything so simple.
It’s a long season with little practice time. George doesn’t have time to shoot 1,000 jumpers a day midseason to regain muscle memory if it has been erased by bad habits. So maybe he won’t be able to fix this until the offseason.
There is no way that mechanics can explain all that is wrong with George. And if this is indeed a main cause of his poor shooting then he needs to stop taking shots he has trouble making and focus on those he can. He needs to adjust.
But regardless of the solution, Coach Nick certainly found something interesting here.