Shooting is such a delicate thing. We all recognize that Dunleavy is about a 44% lifetime shooter, and that he is near that with us. Lots of people seem surprised by his struggles from the perimeter, as he generally takes good shots that are open, has good size to see over defenders, and doesnt have any obvious reasons why he shouldnt be a better shooter. The fact remains however that for his entire career he has struggled with his shot accuracy....the question I want to pose today is why, and what some possible solutions might be.
Some coaches at higher levels firmly believe that a person's jump shot, much like a quarterbacks throwing motion or a pitchers windup in baseball, shouldnt be tampered much, since its obviously been effective enough to get them to this point. Sometimes the solutions to a problem can be more problematic than the original issue that was trying to be solved. I can only wonder if Dunleavy's pro coaches have been of that type, because clearly with his pedigree, Dunleavy you would think would be a better shooter than he is in reality.
Shooting can be so much mental, and then again so much fundamentals....there is no reason why Dunleavy should have mental issues I dont believe, so Ive been really really watching him (along with a couple of other coaching friends of mine who I talk to) just to see if we see anything in his delivery or shot that makes him miss more than he should. First of all, a couple of observations:
1. Dunleavy takes good shots: He rarely forces a bad jumper, isnt asked to make bailout plays against the shot clock, and is usually not the focal point of the opponents defense. Its these mitigating factors that really got me to really study all aspects of his shot to see if I saw anything....He SHOULD BE BETTER, but his track record says he isn't....he intrigues the coach in me.
2. The Pacers are not generally one of the teams who believe in letting a guy shoot the way he shoots, even if it's wrong. Carlisle and Bird both really helped develop jump shots of Austin Croshere and Mark Jackson...AC by getting his elbow consistently underneath the ball, and getting Jax to step into his shot more and use his legs. Each became a better shooter than they were when this staff got in place.
OK, so what is it with Dunleavy? From our vantage points in person a couple of times and on video, my friends and I see the following areas of adjustment that the Pacers can make IN THE OFFSEASON to work on Dunleavy's accuracy.
A: Hand position: I can't completely tell from video, but I have read and have come to the conclusion that Dunleavy has larger than average hands, relative to the size of the rest of his body. Particularly I think he has really long fingers. This matters in a jump shooter because if you shoot with your hand totally stretched out it disrupts the spin of the ball, if your hands are too stretched....it also makes you get too much of the palm and base of your hand onto the ball, throwing off your accuracy slightly.
SOLUTION IF THIS IS RIGHT: Pull in your fingers slightly, and really emphasize getting the ball onto your fingertips. You need to "shrink" up your shooting hand in other words....There are drills for this that are common to the game, but if this is right he'll need lots of drill work in the summer to try and break that habit or tendency.
B: Ball position: I think this is an issue Bird particularly can help him with in the offseason. Dunleavy doesnt hold the ball in a particularly bad spot for his release, but in my judgment he holds it too low and too in front of his face, possibly even blocking his own vision when shooting slightly. This is a fairly common problem that happens to players early in their development sometimes. Average shooters hold it this way, but the great shooters don't.
SOLUTION IF THIS IS RIGHT: A total revamp of his release point on his shot, but more than that a complete revamp of where Dunleavy holds the ball as he is "cocking" for the shot. My visions for this are 2 players: Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki, who both hold the ball before the shot is actually released to the side of their heads, higher in the air than Dunleavy does. What Im saying is....Dunleavy needs to get his arms out of the way of his head so he can release the ball higher and in a more consistent way. This is going to take repetitive shooting, a mental commitment to change, and lots of video work.....and it carries a risk of backfiring if he cant handle the change.
C. Vision issues. I have no idea of Dunleavy's medicals....but I sometimes see him on the floor and wonder how his vision is. I wonder if just an old fashioned eye exam might help.
SOLUTION IF RIGHT: Laser vision surgery.
D. Conditioning issues: One friend of mine watches Dunleavy and doesnt think he is in optimal great shape, which hurts his concentration and takes his legs from him at times. This person thinks his shootig form, while not totally perfect, would be solved simply be getting Junior in better physical condition....and he questions whether Dunleavy has the drive to make that happen after earning his payday already.
SOLUTION IF RIGHT: Pacers need to hire a personal trainer, keep Dunleavy in Indianapolis all summer, and try and "coach him up" all summer. It also might help to publically call him out, raise the stakes and put some pressure on Dunleavy to be as good a player as it seems like he should be based on his talent, size, and pedigree.
For those of you who watch the game with a critical eye, Id love for us to watch Dunleavy and really analyze his shot technique and see if we see something in it that I didnt mention. Id love to hear opinions on what we think the problem is. Im not prepared yet to say Dunleavy is as bad a shooter as his career numbers suggest, and I know his game is an ultimate conundrem for the Pacers staff. I also know that the Pacers are fiming everyone of Dunleavy's shots in practices and games with a camera isolated on him to try and do the same thing my friends and I took on just for fun....what does Pacersdigest see ?