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Preseason Recap: Examining Rondo’s Jump Shot (Video)

The Preseason is over and what better way to kill time before the regular season than to try and draw any conclusions from eight meaningless games.  Today’s topic is Rajon Rondo’s jump shot.

Rajon Rondo has a fatal flaw and it’s not a secret.  Rondo’s lack of proficiency shooting the basketball is well documented and is also the “go-to” critique of NBA writer’s who refuse to put Rondo in the “top-tier” point guard conversation.  While I believe his mastery in other aspects of the game (passing, defense, rebounding, etc.) trumps the perceived weakness of his shooting ability, I understand the argument against putting him in the “top-tier” conversation.  Rondo is so good at everything else, his shooting sticks out like Mike Miller‘s sore thumb (too soon?).  To many NBA fans, the success of this and future Celtic teams is contingent on Rondo’s improvement in this area.

This deficiency was most prominently (and most costly) exploited in the 2010 NBA Finals.  Phil Jackson decided to employ a defense where Kobe Bryant defended Rondo.  Putting Bryant on Rondo allowed Bryant to play the role of free safety as he almost exclusively roamed the middle of the floor, leaving Rondo open for makeable jump shots.  Unfortunately, Rondo shot 37% from outside of 10 feet for the series- well below league average (HoopData.com).  There are those that believe that if Rondo had the ability to knock down these open jumpers, the series would have played out differently.  This is one of those times where playing the “what if” game only results in half-baked conclusions, homer-rific proclamations, and the rekindling of painful memories.  For those reasons, it’s just not worth it so I will not even bother.  Instead, I have set out to determine if there is any evidence to substantiate a noticeable improvement on Rondo’s outside shot from the 2010 NBA Finals and the 2010 Preseason.

There is no right way to execute a successful jump shot.  To say otherwise is to ignore the success of Reggie Miller (39.5 3P%), Shawn Marion (33.5 3P%), Leandro Barbosa (39.8 3P%), and the Celtics’ own Luke Harangody (Basketball Reference).  While there may be no right way, there is definitely a wrong way.  The wrong way is to continue to shoot one way without reaching a level of consistent success or making the necessary adjustments to reach that level of consistent success.

Rondo has been taking jump shots the “wrong way” since he came into the league.  The three flaws in Rondo’s shot that are mentioned most when discussing his lack of success include the following:

1) Rondo’s right elbow tends to flare out/away from his body
2) The “jump” and “shot” lack the necessary fluidity
3) Rondo’s guide hand tends to leave the ball prematurely

Below is a video compilation of Rondo from the NBA Finals.  Admittedly, the examples contained in this compilation are not the best for highlighting the aforementioned flaws in Rondo’s jump shot.  By the time the NBA Finals rolled around, Rondo had put in a year’s worth of shooting practice and was noticeably a better shooter than he had been in previous seasons.

  • Example 1 is… a poor one.  Rondo is off balance, shooting off the dribble, over a much taller defender in Lamar Odom– not to mention the shot clock situation.  Despite the situational aspects of the shot, his form is still poor.  He has Odom off balance and in a race to recover to contest the jumper.  Rondo has a chance to go up straight but he fades away and the resulting shot is a brick.
  • Example 2 is an example of improvement from Rondo’s past shooting record but his lack of confidence is noticeable.  Despite going up straight, he’s still off balance as evident by the scissor kick he does on the way down.  He is also wide open without a defender within five feet of him and the ball still does not roll off his hand straight.  You can see this by the way he tilts his head to the left after he releases, almost willing the ball to go in.
  • Example 3 is the best example from the Finals of Rondo’s shooting at its worst.  While it may seem innocuous enough, Rondo has to take a dribble in order to square up cleanly to the basket.  This gives enough time for Kobe Bryant to recover to contest the shot.  Rondo’s arms do not begin his shooting motion until he has nearly reached the apex of his jump instead of jumping and shooting in one fluid motion.
  • Example 4 is a pretty good jump shot in terms of its rhythm and fluidity.  Unfortunately, Rondo’s other mechanical issue, pointing his shooting elbow out, is prominent.
  • While he makes the jump shot, Example 5 is another example of his jump shot lacking fluidity.  The best part about this shot is Rondo’s confidence level.  Kendrick Perkins down-screens Kobe Bryant and as soon as Rondo sees daylight, he raises up and fires.

One of the biggest offseason surprises to most Rondo aficionados is the fact that he  did not continue to work on his shooting mechanics with Mark Price– something he had done prior to the 2009-2010 season.  After watching Rondo in the preseason, it’s obvious that he had extensively worked on his shot despite not working with Price.

Below is another compilation of Rondo shooting jump shots, although this video contains all of the jump shots Rondo took in the Preseason:

  • In Example A, Rondo does not bother to elevate as much as possible because he is so wide open.  Instead, he sizes up the basket and shoots a jumper confidently and in rhythm.  He has also shortened his follow through and kept his guide/off hand on the ball longer.
  • Example B is incredibly fluid.  He catches the ball, immediately squares up to the basket, elevates and follows through cleanly.  Rondo again leaves his guide hand on the ball until the beginning of his follow through.  This is most evident in the replay from the opposite end line.  In this clip, Rondo’s guide hand leaves the ball as soon as his wrist begins the final stage of his follow through.
  • In Example C, Rondo has to elevate more as the man defending him is Toronto Center David Anderson– a much taller player.  Despite this extra elevation, Rondo still releases the ball timely and in rhythm instead of after reaching the apex of his jump.
  • In Example D, Rondo is is forced to shoot the ball at the end of the shot clock and over a taller player in Toronto’s Reggie Evans.  He is falling away and has to shorten his follow through to get the shot off on time.  These two things make this shot almost irrelevant to the discussion as this is far from a normal jump shot.  The important element of this shot to note, however, is the rotation of the ball in flight.  The backspin on the ball is far from the dead-ball that usually comes from Rondo’s lack of fluidity.
  • Example E is a missed three point shot attempt at the end of the shot clock, thus it’s not a very good example for comparison.  Yet, notice how the elevation is similar to that of Example A- a make.  Rondo has also shortened his follow-through in order to release the ball over the outstretched hand of the Knick’s Raymond Felton.  The trajectory is dead on, it is just about six inches too short.
  • Example F is another example of how Rondo is keeping his guide hand on the ball for the beginning of his follow through.  Rondo’s shooting elbow is still pointing away from his body but this is ameliorated by his follow-through and slight bodily rotation on the opposite side.  Probably the most noteworthy aspect of this example is the fact that Rondo is calling for the ball.   It is very evident that Rondo is much more confident with his jump shot- something that is almost as important as consistency of form.
  • Again, Example G shows Rondo shooting off the dribble and at the buzzer.  In other words, the last thing on his mind is his shooting form.  However, there is still a consistency about his release.  Similar to his other shots from twenty feet or more, Rondo has shortened his release and hastened it.  The trajectory is dead-on, but it’s too strong and hits the back rim.
  • Example H is nearly identical to Example E only this time, Rondo puts the right amount of muscle behind the ball and the outcome is a perfect shot.
  • Example I is a bad shot.  Rondo is forced to jump higher than he wants in order to avoid Toronto’s Jarrett Jack.  He also removes his guide hand prematurely.  The result is a brick but better than a shot clock violation.
  • Example J is another bad shot.  Rondo releases the ball after he reaches the apex of his jump and again removes his guide hand prematurely.  This results in another brick that clangs off the right side of the rim.

The results from the Preseason are mixed, the sample size is small, and the varying situational aspects of each example make it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions.  That being said, it’s obvious that Rajon Rondo is comfortable and confident with his jumper and will not readily turn down open looks as he has done in the past.  His outside shooting success in the preseason (50% FG%, 5- for-10 from >10 feet) is something that will undoubtedly stir up fanfare and the minor tweaks he has made (whether intentional or not) are worth mentioning.

Regardless of Rajon Rondo‘s final field goal percentages, I think it’s fair to say that Rondo will have a much different experience shooting the ball this season.  Determining the positives and negatives of this prediction is for another day.

  • Ouvert

    He might improve this year – we all hope so.

    But until then, you can't write about "the perceived weakness of his shooting ability." The weakness isn't just perceived. It exists, until he proves he can hit jumpers.

    • I guess I was trying to get at the idea that his "poor shooting" is a perceived weakness in his candidacy for being a top-tier point guard. Poor phrasing. I'm getting over a cold and my brain has been scrambled for the past week, thus I'm shooting free throws left-handed.

      • Ouvert

        Yeah, that can happen. I bet the video analysis is good stuff – I just can't see it right now because I'm on a crummy old computer.

  • I_Love_Green

    As long as he can step into a shot at the elbow, or a little above it he'll be fine. Because the way Kobe was guarding him would've allowed him to do that everytime down the floor.

  • I_Love_Green

    Yess great news…Jermaine practiced with no restrictions today! Looks like we'll have him opening night.

  • Andrew

    That was an impressive post

  • NHBluesMan

    i'm liking what i'm seeing, makes me wonder if maybe Ray Ray has been giving Rondo some tips on his form. I really hope Ray also takes Bradley under his wing and helps him out too. I think thats an undervalued part of this Celtics team… yes they are older, but with age and experience comes wisdom about the game, and that is something to be passed on to the younger guys (i.e. KG's mentoring of 'Gody and Semhi)

    I think thats a big part of why Rondo has gotten so good so quickly, he's been mentored by 3 future HOFers who have confidence in him, and because of that he's a top 5 PG at such a young age.

    man, i CAN'T WAIT for the season to start!!!

  • kinto

    Good post…but I don't by much into it. I'm sure you can find good examples of Rondo shooting fluidly also in the 2009-2010 regular season. The problems arise when the game really counts….we'll see. I really hope you are right!

  • Perry

    The jury remains out on his post up game, but if Rondo can stick that elbow jumper with any type of consistently he becomes the best PG in the NBA. Despite the erratic shooting percentage, he has proved he can dominate in stretches against the elite teams … in the biggest games. Even if his form is unorthodox the beauty of his personalty is he doesn't lack confidence and has the propensity to make clutch shots … and he wants that last shot.

    In the past when his jumper wasn't going it created a huge crater in the team's offensive production, and if PP and Ray were not on their game those dry spells seemed like an eternity.

    Thats why Delonte is so valuable. Unlike Tony Allen his perimeter game allows Nate or Rondo to roam off the ball. Delonte and Nate are also capable of dominating a game with their offense. All things being considered, teams will no longer be able use size on Rondo because of the tremendous back court depth, and that should do wonders for his stroke.

  • Morpheus

    Rondo's guide hand isn't following through the way it should.The way i like to shoot,learned from watching MJ,not to mention numerous other top tier shooters folow through with their guide hand pointing towards the basket.Rondo leaves his guide hand in it's original position,facing upwards,not towards the basket.His release is a bit earlier as opposed to releasing way too late.
    The guide hand is just as important as the trigger.The guide hand and the release should work in one smooth, fluid motion.
    Some of Rondo's jumpers, he's got his guide hand almost on top of the ball which is so wrong i don't know where he would have got that technique from.Also one of the sore thumbs about Rondo's jumper is where he shoots the ball from,which is the side of his head as opposed to in front above your eye.That and his trigger hand is way too low(see example B 2nd video)on some of his Js and his head is tilted back,His head needs to be straight in line with his body.
    I think he has put some work in getting rid of his flaws,hopefully his jumper has improved this season, as we know that area of his game needs to be if we're to have a shot at banner 18.
    4 more sleeps fellas.

  • Shareef

    Rondo sucks Knicks shall thump GO KNICKS!!!

    • shano14

      Rondo is one of the best point gards in the NBA no one can compare to his speed

  • scott

    heres the thing… i like the confidence, but i dont like that being the first option. He only needs to hit that when he is open, not when he is trying to run the offense. The C's are at their best when he drives and dishes, not when he pulls up. However, when paul or ray (or sub) drives and dishes to an open rondo, THATS when it counts – not when he creates his own jump shot. He needs to drive when available and get to the hole. If someone else finds him open, thats when he takes the shot – not after he has created a shot. Rondo drives to the hoop and finds either an open ray/paul (after their defender has tried to fill the lane and help) or feeds to one of the bigs (their defender has rotated on rondo). Thats his best game – not shooting outside jumpers. The problem was never rondo being able to create his own jumpers – the problem lies with him being able to hit the OPEN jumper. If people dare him to shoot, he should shoot. otherwise – attack, attack, and then attack some more. Kendrick perkins is a great defender, but shaq, jermaine, and KG are FAR better finishers around the rim. The more rondo drives and dishes, the more inside action the C's are going to get. If the open shot is available, thats when we should start criticizing rondo's ability to hit the outside J.

    • Morpheus

      Fair point

  • Perry

    Speaking of jump shots, the Heat reportedly are reaching out to Stackhouse now that Miller is on the shelf until January. Now who's old?

    • Ouvert

      The one guy the Heat truly can't lose is Wade. He's a murderer – willed that Team to a championship almost by himself a few years ago. The one guy in the East who scares me.

      If Wade isn't full strength – or if he's injured – there's zero chance the Heat come out of the East.

  • JP-

    Love the dig on Mike Miller in the beginning, aside from that I think Rondo's jumper has improved little by little, probably similar to D. Howard's post moves. The thing I don't really like is that so many of them are near the end of the shot clock, although it makes sense that a team would leave Rondo open as the shot clock expires rather than leave Ray, KG, or PP open.

  • Zep

    Confidence doesn't count in the preseason. Why on earth would he turn down jump shots in preseason games?

  • Geo

    If Rondo can improve his free throw shooting during the season that alone will be HUGE. He was 14 for 19 shooting free throws in the pre season. There were 5 games out of the 7 pre season games he played in that he never got to the free throw line that was unusual. Rondo played 122 minutes total in those 5 games without a free throw attempt.

  • marion

    yo shawn marion sucks. he shot a high % in pheonix playing with nash and that offence. 19% and 16% in the two years out of phoenix.

    he sucks.

  • John (in Lakersland)

    I dunno how old's that pic in the article, since Hinrich is still in a Bulls uni… but all I know is that THE DUDE IS SHOOTING WITH ONE HAND!!! His elbow is way out. Shoulders aren't squared. He's PALMING the ball. Mark Price shouldn't be coaching him. Shaq should.

    Tell him to:

    1. square shoulders
    2. keep elbows at 90 degrees
    3. keep elbows in
    4. keep ball off palm and only along the 5 fingers
    5. release with index, middle and ring fingers – FOLLOW THROUGH (which he does)

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