So Jason Kidd is shooting the ball poorly these days. This we know. In the first two months of the season, he shot 44.3% from beyond the arc. Since January 1st, only 28.4%. We actively attribute this to a regression to the mean, but what regressed? What mean? Why did he have to regress to the mean? Why wasn’t it that he, just, well, improved?
The answer can be found in Jason Kidd’s three-point shooting technique, which is erratic and unsavory and mechanical and largely undecided. And that’s fine, at least the unsavory and mechanical part. There isn’t a right way to shoot a basketball so much as there’s traditional methodology and bits of advice hovering around here and there. Goose neck, line up your feet, stay on balance, and so on. All of which various things line up the shooter’s body with the basket to keep everything straight.
Jason Kidd, as it turns out, is a case study in proper balance – in that he mostly ignores it. If there’s anything most shooters share, it’s that they generally jump and land with consistent footwork. Which is to say that it fits within this basic framework: on takeoff, the lead foot – the right foot for righties, and left for lefties – faces the hoop. On landing, both feet slide together and become parallel to keep the shooter on balance.
Take Steve Novak and Ray Allen – who have significantly different releases – but have identical footwork. Here are two of their shots on takeoff:
And on landing:
And now both at full speed:
The two-feet-acting-as-one technique naturally distributes the shock of the landing and concentrates it everywhere and nowhere. If you’re alone or have particularly non-judgmental co-workers, take a pretend jump shot right now. Notice that your feet slide together, too: it’s your body’s way of absorbing the landing blow, the reverberating shock from the floor on up through your legs. Now land with your legs separated, feet in any direction you please: notice the individualized pressure points, the extra strain to remain on balance. This, in part, is what Ray Allen and Steve Novak do so well: consistency in proper technique. And so, not Jason Kidd.
Here’s where someone says something about the third most three-pointers made ever, and here’s where that factoid is acknowledged as a matter of longevity. Not that he can’t shoot the ball properly, even with various hands in his face. Like so:
Look at those feet! Nice. Parallel, on balance, smooth. Check out the landing and takeoff freeze frames:
To be fair, 80% of Jason Kidd’s form is virtually identical on every attempt: the foot alignment, the release point, everything through ball leaving hand. But that’s where things go awry quite often, and we’re subject to three different three-point shooting Jason Kidds. The first you saw above – the good Jason Kidd. The Jason Kidd that, when shooting with parallel and adjacent feet, shoots 46.9% from deep (46/95).
Jason Kidd No. 2
Then there’s three-point shooting Jason Kidd No. 2: he likes to flap his lead leg in the breeze and let it haphazardly float forwards on the shot landing.
That Jason Kidd is shooting 30.3% from beyond the arc on more attempts (33/109).
Jason Kidd No. 3
And finally we have three-point shooting Jason Kidd No. 3, leg flailing Jason Kidd. You’ve seen this guy plenty of times: he won a game for the Knicks, once. You know, the guy who flings his leg sideways to create contact but fails most of the time.
This Jason Kidd is equally terrible, coming in at 30.2% (though on far fewer attempts – 13/43). And no, it’s not just an unintentional body shudder. Check out the video:
So, back to our original question. Why the drop off, all of a sudden? What changed? Jason Kidd’s improper shooting form didn’t emerge mid-season, nor even this year. The leg split and forward lean is his built-in, follow-your-own-shot mechanism. It’s what’s made him a great rebounding guard all these years – he naturally creeps towards the paint, assuming a miss. And there were days earlier in his career when long misses weren’t so few and far between, and so he hedged against himself. But in these days of inferior athleticism and efficiency of movement, Kidd has revamped his game to become a solid spot-up shooter. The leg lean, then, is a vestige of his former self, a pre-shooting evolution trace. A time when he chased after offensive rebounds.
He’ll still do it, on occasion, but he’s undoubtedly way more selective in his paint ventures. What’s left, however, are three distinct shooting forms with varying levels of success:
And only if he stuck to Jason Kidd No. 1, on the far left, more often. Tracking his shots by landing type over the five months of this season, it becomes readily apparent what exactly regressed to the mean:
Quite simply, he’s taken more shots from improper technique that yield a lower shooting percentage – Only 38.5% of his three-point attempts have been taken properly, compared to 61.5% with some variation of a leg kick – and so it was only a matter of time before it caught up with him. This becomes apparent if we take a look his shooting by month:
Though November, December and February are anomalous in their end-of-the-spectrum data, there’s nonetheless a systematic field goal percentage decline for the lesser two of the Jason Kidds. But even if we exclude his marksman shooting in November and December and include that horrible, horrible February, Jason Kidd No. 1 is still a 35% shooter (21-56) post-January 1.
We can discuss February ad nauseum – maybe he psyched himself out in some unquantifiable way – but the general point still holds. When Jason Kidd shoots the ball without his feet going haywire, he’s actually quite good. Now, you may argue that Kidd only reverts to that instinctual, less technically sound form when under pressure, and that those foot-aligned makes are a function of higher quality looks. Maybe that’s the case, and admittedly something I didn’t track – but it still doesn’t excuse the reversion and is, most certainly, correctable. Not to mention that Jason Kidd, as seen in the first video, can and does make those contested looks with the right approach.
You might also mention the pre and post-January 1st shot charts to glean some insight, but they don’t tell us much either. Kidd went mysteriously cold (4/23) from the right corner at the start of the new year, and his hottest zone in November and December – the right wing – plummeted from 52.08% (25/48) to 19.15% (9/47). Otherwise, his zones remained relatively the same.
All of which is to say: Jason Kidd can shoot the ball well, should he choose to discipline his feet a bit more.
Note: half court/end of shot clock heaves were excluded from this exercise and not counted as attempts. Statistics from Miami-New York on April 2 were not included. Some video and screenshots via mySynergySports.