How Chris Paul Improved His ShootingLast season, Chris Paul emerged as the best point guard in the NBA and perhaps the biggest single improvement in his game was his shooting. Paul shot just .430 from the field as a rookie in 2005-06, including a dismal .282 from three point range. He elevated those numbers to .488 and .369 respectively in 2007-08. His increased shooting range and improved accuracy obviously made him harder to guard and that in turn opened up some more driving and passing lanes, enabling him to lead the league with a career-high 11.6 apg, breaking Steve Nash's three year run as the NBA's assist king (although I documented that at least some of Paul's playoff assist totals were inflated I do not dispute that Paul is a great playmaker).
How did Paul improve his shooting skills? It would be silly to say that he is a natural shooter. If that were the case then his percentage would not have been so poor as a rookie. No, Paul has become a good shooter via the time tested, proven way to success in any field: hard work. During the San Antonio-New Orleans playoff series, Reggie Miller mentioned that Paul's regular pregame routine--conducted well before the start of the game, when he is on the court by himself--involves making (not just attempting) 151 shots from a variety of locations. Miller said that this is reminiscent of his own pregame routine, something that he developed when he was in college and watched some tapes of Larry Bird. I covered some Pacers games late in Miller's career and can vouch for the fact that Miller had an extensive pregame shooting routine. Miller started out with shots very close to the basket and then eventually moved further and further out as he warmed up. You might think that at some point the game's all-time leader in three point field goals made would not need to practice layups but that kind of thinking is backwards: a major reason that Miller not only became such a great shooter but enjoyed such longevity is precisely the fact that he paid such diligent attention to detail on a nightly basis.
Great players do not become great by accident or merely by "winning the genetic lottery," to borrow a phrase that Bill Walton often uses; they become great because of their tremendous work ethic. Obviously, a certain minimum baseline of talent is necessary, but what separates players at the elite level is how hard they work and how focused they are, because everyone at the elite level has talent. The "genetic lottery" could be more accurately said to separate the athletes from the non-athletes but not the great players from the good or the good from the below average in terms of the pool of players who actually make it to the NBA.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:08 AM