Giannis Antetokounmpo’s jumper has been slow to improve. Since his second year in the league, he’s strengthened his three-point percentage to just 25.6 percent and his mid-range percentage to around 39 percent. Even in his MVP season, Giannis’ shot had the consistency of a malfunctioning strobe light and the rough-hewn mechanics that clench teeth and squeeze shut eyelids. His shot has been lackluster, which makes this next part rather bizarre to type out.
Throughout the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Giannis demonstrated progress in his jump shot, enough to warrant — albeit skeptically — a reevaluation of his one major pitfall.
Before deep diving into a small (but very important!) sample size, it’s worth noting that conclusions have to be taken with a grain of salt, but also with a bigger picture in mind. With only a few international games being the vantage point to his development, consistent nuances should be taken seriously.
Below is a look at the current state of Giannis’ jumper following the FIBA World Cup.
Head Tilt on Free Throw
It’s worth it to go back a few years to gauge this change. The prior position of his head, which is something not often considered as a shot-altering variable, seems to cause other inefficiencies.
Left Photo: By tilting his head back in lieu of using his eyes to lock on to the rim, he bends his back noticeably which tugs at his upwards momentum.
Right Photo: It’s not perfect, but Giannis’ chin isn’t raised directly towards the rim, causing him to be more upright, keeping his momentum forward, and giving his shot more natural movement.
Release and Gathering Point
Giannis has scrapped some old habits in this regard, as his current release has less affinity to the over-the-head whip he dealt with just a few months ago. Giannis has managed to lower his gathering point (where a player stops raising the ball upwards and begins to release) significantly, keeping his momentum in front of him instead of having the ball rest without momentum on top his head.
Release and shot speed seem to accompany each other, too, as his shot releases with more flick and a quicker trigger. Having his gathering point lower eliminates the slingshot motion of his form, keeping the ball from creeping to the top of his head. In whatever strides he’s made refurbishing his jump shot, his release figures to be the center of it all.
Here’s an improvement that needs fewer words and more film. From his base up to his release, he has cut down on hitches and smoothed out his movement, making for a crisp top-to-bottom jumper. (The first video is from December of last year while the second comes days before the FIBA tournament.)
Giannis is the first player in the @NBA this season to record consecutive games of 30+ points on 70% shooting or better!! #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/8a2WGwza9R— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 20, 2018
Giannis shooting drills in Nanjing#TeamHellas #FIBAWC #Antetokounmpo pic.twitter.com/HRQROEzswi— Harris Stavrou (@harris_stavrou) August 30, 2019
Areas For Improvement
Steph Curry’s fundamentals and mechanics are the perfect looking glass into the gravity of some of Giannis’ awry shooting mechanics.
The most offbeat trait from Curry to Giannis is how much further Giannis keeps the ball from his chest. Do long arms factor in here? Of course. But he eventually brings the ball closer to his body, creating the aforementioned whiplike motion that lacks fluidity, upwards momentum, and all the goods associated with the league’s pure shooting strokes.
As far as fixing that? Look no further than his elbow angle and a quick geometry lesson. Curry’s arm creates an acute angle while Giannis’ arms are obtuse. The more bend or the more acute that elbow angle is, the closer the ball stays to the chest and easier the flow from raising to releasing becomes.
Giannis is liable to clanking shots off the front of the rim, as his form and shot progression are visually counterproductive.
He leans, and it has been one of the uglier aspects of his jumper. The white line below shows where one would preferably be at the peak of their shooting progression: straight upwards. Giannis’ body aligns with a path much more similar to the red line, where his back-bending stance seems both uncomfortable and mechanically incorrect all at once. That leaning creates a bit of a fading effect, killing momentum.
It’s had an obvious draw on him, too. Giannis missed short 42 percent of the time per one hundred shots (via Craig Luschenat) last season. Even if it’s a normal field goal, a smidge of backward momentum is visible on every shot attempt. It’s a devastating habit, and should be priority number one in the time from FIBA to the season opener.
Losses came at an atypical frequency for Giannis and the Greek team, pin that on a unit of NBA also-rans and Greek-league ballers.
Giannis shot just 9 three-point shots during the World Cup. Him not making many isn’t too much of a concern. He found the stripe at a decent rate, though, shooting 34 free throws throughout the entire tournament. He knocked down 70 percent of his attempts, right around his 72.9 percent during last season.
Surprisingly, his total attempts and percentages didn’t reflect his mechanical strides. He didn’t force perimeter action as he did occasionally during the playoffs last season, which, for now, is probably a good thing. The film and shooting snippets are the most exciting thing from these weeks of international play. A difference in his shot from four months ago to now is has been noted, meaning he did some behind the scenes tweaking and adjusting. And, with the struggles he’s dealt with in the past, trying something new is the best avenue for the 24-year-old MVP.