Ever since the Golden State Warriors won their 2015 NBA title using an unorthodox lineup consisting of two guards and no star forwards, the league was quick to realise that long-distance shooting and spacing was the new norm.
NBA offenses quickly evolved, and teams started to launch more threes than ever before. This sudden shift to high-volume three-point shooting left many players who couldn't shoot the ball on an island.
Who are the current NBA stars who need to improve their jump shots?
Before 2014, you could be an All-Star or a championship-level player even if you couldn't shoot the ball. Most plays were designed to get to the rim while shooting multiple threes were considered low-quality shots and would often get players benched.
However, shooting is an asset that is at an all-time high. Even centers and big men come into the NBA with a three-point shot. Nevertheless, there are several active players who still lack decent jump shots and will need to get in the gym this off-season to improve that part of their games.
On that note, let's take a look at five such NBA stars.
#5 Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is the epitome of effective but inefficient NBA basketball. He will give you his 100% on the field, but his shooting woes are painfully apparent. Many of Westbrook's best performances can be deemed inefficient.
He holds the record for the highest-scoring playoff triple-double in NBA history (51 points in 2017). Every other player on that list got there with a hot hand, shooting 60-70% from the field. But Westbrook's historic night came about as a result of shooting 39% from the field and 18% from the three-point line.
Russell Westbrook is a career 30% from beyond the arc, and his career-high 3P% in a season was during his NBA MVP year when he shot 35%. He is a career 43% from the floor and has never shot more than 47% from the field in a season. More surprisingly, Westbrook, who is a career 80% foul shooter, dropped to 65% this season from the free-throw line.
Although it may be an exaggeration, many have compared Westbrook to the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons, who is arguably the worst shooter in the league. Ben Maller of Fox Sports Radio said in this regard:
"The only difference between Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons is that Simmons refuses to shoot from the outside. Westbrook can be baited into shooting from outside, but it never goes well."
However, we know that Russell Westbrook knows how to shoot. He has decent mechanics, and we have seen him drop threes. He just needs to put in the work and spend enough hours in the gym in the 2021 NBA off-season to improve those numbers.
#4 Draymond Green
Three-time NBA champion and one of the smartest players in the league, Draymond Green, has struggled shooting the ball lately. We have seen him shoot effectively before, and it's not like he is afraid to shoot the ball or incapable of doing so. He has just seen a decline in his shot attempts and has become the ultimate facilitator.
In an episode of HBO's The Shop, Draymond Green spoke about his leadership role. He also talked about how, when Stephen Curry is even 'half-open', he'd rather pass the ball to arguably the greatest shooter ever rather than take the shot himself. He said in this regard:
"People would say 'Draymond, you should shoot!' But if I can get Steph Curry the ball for a f---ing shot, why would I shoot?"
There is a lot of merit in his statements. Green and Curry share an unspoken connection and chemistry, which is arguably the best in the NBA. Draymond Green led the league in passes to a single teammate this season by a significant margin.
However, it is worth noting that Green's shooting does need to improve. He once shot 38% from beyond the arc in 2016. But that has consistently fallen every subsequent season from then on; it is 27% this season.
He missed a wide open layup in the final seconds of the play-in tournament, which could have potentially won his team the game. The team's GM, Bob Myers, coach Steve Kerr and Draymond himself have admitted that the player needs to work on his shooting in the 2021 NBA off-season.
Draymond Green doesn't need to work on his shooting. He only needs to improve his percentage and shot attempts. If three-pointers are not worth attempting, then a decent mid-range jump shot is certainly achievable.
#3 Giannis Antetokounmpo
Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the most dominant power forward in the game today.
He attacks the rim like no other player can and is one of the leading scorers for points in the paint. However, his shooting struggles are well documented. The Greek Freak's entire free-throw routine (before catching the ball) is over 20 seconds long, and even then he often air-balls his attempts.
He is a career 28% from the three-point line and 71% from the free-throw line.
Antetokounmpo is often left wide open at the three-point line, with defenders daring him to shoot the ball. His mechanics are not the best, and he certainly needs to improve his jumper.
At the moment, his efficiency outside the restricted area is abysmal. He converts 73% of his attempts within 0-3 feet of the basket, but that number falls down to 35% when he attempts from beyond three feet.
Many believe Antetokounmpo overthinks at the charity stripe, which eventually forces him to miss. Renowned NBA analyst Skip Bayless said in this regard:
"Never seen a player shoot two free-throw air balls in the midst of making so many free throws. Giannis is so amped up, he hyperventilates and shoots air balls..."
Just like with Draymond Green, if Giannis Antetokounmpo develops even a decent mid-range jump shot and not a three-point shot, it would be a huge addition to his game.
#2 Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA. Everyone is aware of his defensive prowess, but if the Miami Heat intend on competing for the NBA title again, Adebayo will need to be more aggressive offensively.
He is a decent mid-range shooter and has improved in that regard every season. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor spoke about Adebayo during the Miami Heat's 2020 NBA playoff run, saying:
"Bam Adebayo really has a nice mid-range jumper, such smooth mechanics. Shooting 48% on catch-and-shoot 2s during the season and playoffs. I wonder how long it'll be until he extends that to 3."
Adebayo is comfortable taking mid-range shots, although he is not as effective as people would want him to be. He is often passive, with his teammates exhorting him not to be afraid of misses.
He converts 72% of his attempts within 0-3 feet from the basket but only 42% of attempts from anywhere between 3-16 feet from the rim. That isn't particularly bad for a 23-year-old player who is constantly improving, though.
However, Adebayo is one of the few NBA All-Stars who doesn't even attempt three-pointers. He has made just seven career three-pointers in 44 attempts, giving him a career average of 15%. If Adebayo gets more aggressive and starts to consistently make his jump shots, he would be a force to be reckoned with.
#1 Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is under fire lately because of his atrocious performances in the 2021 NBA playoffs series against the Atlanta Hawks.
His inability to shoot and make free throws arguably cost the Philadelphia 76ers the series, leading them to an early exit. ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A Smith has often said that the 76ers cannot win the NBA championship if Simmons cannot shoot the ball.
The Hawks used the 'Hack-a-Simmons' strategy, intentionally fouling him. Ben Simmons was 15-45 from the three-point in the conference semifinals, which was 33%, the worst FT% for a series in NBA history. Moreover, he has just five three-pointers in his entire career, doing so on 34 attempts (14%).
His inability to shoot has led to him being called a liability, and he is now in trade talks. Hall of Famer Charles Barkley doubled down on 'Inside the NBA on TNT' and spoke about Ben Simmons after the loss in Game 7, saying in this regard:
"Ben Simmons can be an All-Star, but that's all he can be until he learns how to shoot. My second best player can't shoot. I can't go to him with the game on the line...I don't even have him in the game...You can’t have a guy on the court ,who’s afraid to shoot the basketball."
LA Lakers legend and Hall of Famer, Magic Johnson has also said that Simmons needs to get with someone in the 2021 off-season and get his confidence up.