Ever since Lonzo Ball burst onto the scene as a freshman at UCLA, much was made about the way he shot the basketball. Though people expected his great vision and passing ability to shine, there were immediate questions about how effective he would be at shooting the ball because of his unorthodox form.
The text book shooting form for a right-handed shooter starts with shoulders squared to the basket and the right arm out with the elbow directly under the hand. The shooting hand sits somewhere around the forehead area and the left hand or guide hand comes across the body to sit on the left side of the ball.
Klay Thompson has mastered this standard shooting form:
Lonzo is a right-handed shooter. However, his form starts with a gather at his left hip before the ball is raised up to the left of his forehead so that his shooting arm forms a 45˚ angle across his head and his right elbow jets outward:
Those questioning Lonzo’s form even included the coaches at UCLA who recruited him to be their starting point guard. Before UCLA took a summer trip to Australia to compete in three exhibition games, the coaching staff had a meeting with Lonzo, his father and his trainer to discuss his form. The meeting concluded in agreement that Lonzo would experiment with a more conventional form in the weeks leading up to the trip, at which point they would then re-evaluate. The experiment ended up a failure as Lonzo shot the ball noticeably worse and with less confidence compared to his original shooting stroke.
Returning to his natural form turned out to be a great idea as Lonzo went on to shoot 55 percent from the floor and 41 percent from 3 in his lone season at UCLA—incredibly efficient numbers at any level.
Despite his success, the questions about his shooting motion followed Lonzo to the NBA. When the Los Angeles Lakers selected Ball with the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, people questioned whether his shot was still broken or if his jumper could translate at the next level. Lonzo’s shooting accuracy from college has not yet followed him to the NBA, as he’s currently shooting 35.3 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from 3.
It got to the point where Lakers director of basketball operations and NBA legend Magic Johnson had to address the media saying that the Lakers would not be trying to alter Lonzo’s form, at least during the season. He did note, however, that if the shooting woes continue it may be something that’s addressed in the offseason. This raised some eyebrows as it seemed that his shooting form was at least a somewhat legitimate concern within the Lakers organization.
So is Lonzo Ball’s poor shooting due solely to his form? Even if you dismiss his success in college as being an anomaly or insignificant due to small sample size, there is proof that Lonzo can shoot the ball effectively despite his unorthodox form. This proof comes not from Lonzo himself, but from NBA players before him who have had success shooting the ball with similar form.
Lets examine some other NBA players who have had success shooting the ball a-kin to Lonzo, which entails starting their release on the opposite side of their head.
Kevin Durant: Career FG% .488, 3PT% .380
Joe Johnson: Career FG% .442, 3PT% .372
Kevin Martin: Career FG% .437, 3PT% .384
These three players have been great scorers over the course of their careers and very efficient 3-point shooters. As you can see from the examples of their right-handed shooting form, they shoot the ball by bringing it from the left side of their head. So while Lonzo’s shot at times might seem a bit more exaggerated than these examples, his form is no anomaly, and with precedent from these great shooters it is possible Lonzo can see success shooting the ball despite his unconventional mechanics.
Lonzo proved during his college days that his shots can go in, and despite getting off to a very rough start in the NBA, his 3-point percentage has trended upward. He shot 37.7 percent from 3 in the month of December and is currently shooting 37.5 percent from deep in January. The NBA stars who shoot similar to him have proved that this form can work.
Lavar Ball, father of Lonzo, advised, “Perfect your shot, whatever it is, it may not look the same, but as long as you put the ball in that hole (it’s all good).”
No two players in the NBA shoot the ball the exact same way, and no matter how it looks, what matters is whether the ball goes in or not. Unfortunately for Lonzo, the ball hasn’t gone in at the rate at which he and Lakers fans would like. However, this isn’t necessarily because of the way in which he shoots the ball. Keep an eye on Lonzo moving forward to see if he continues to use the form that made him a top pick or if the team forces him into adopting a more traditional shooting stroke.
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