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While this question relates to basketball, it is more so a question of statistics and probability. I wondered if one could determine a basketball players career high shooting percentage from high school stats. A few things that I cannot account for are Shot IQ, open vs. contested shots and practice percentage (vs in-game). Players like Stephen Curry & Russell Westbrook take 300 makes a day (work record for most 3's in a row takes 500)...yet their 3pt% has barely risen since high school. I'll use FT% or 3pt% as possible to explain:

Russel Westbrook (HS-Junior 2004/05) FT: 70% on 77 attempts

Russel Westbrook (College Senior 2007/08) FT: 71.3% on 150 attempts

Russel Westbrook (NBA-BEST FT YEAR 2016/17) FT: 84.5% on 428 attempts

In 3 years he worked up to 1.5% better. In 12 years we got to near 15% better. Lebron James follows a similar trend in 3pt shooting (this year excluded) and not much better it FT going from freshman year of HS at 79% to NBA season 08/09 at 78% (worse). All NBA players I can get high school stats on have a similar trend, either staying the same or only increasing their numbers by 5-10% (Westbrook the exception).

We know that height to weight ratio can cause variability (by running the numbers and cross reference to FT%). We know that some kids have a head start advantage (Curry with a sharpshooting dad). But it seems that the most a freshman high school (prodigy) can hope to increase their shooting percentage is 5-15% over their prime (15 years of practice). So what I want to know...and this may sound ludicrous, does anyone have PROOF that shooting practice actually improves shooting SIGNIFICANTLY. I know that it helps as with any skill, but it seems that the current 'practice' methods are minimally effective at making shooters better.

This is not a debate, I want academic research, team data or even personal case studies to prove or disprove that volume shooting practice is effective so that coaches can make data driven decisions.

  • I think the only way to empirically prove/disprove this would be to compare Westbrook to someone who could make 70% of free throws at high school level, and then didn't practice at all for twelve years. I don't know whether such a comparison exists, though. – F1Krazy Apr 25 at 12:41
  • My own understanding, based on a lifetime of video gaming, is that practice doesn't just help you get better, it also prevents you from getting worse. From 70% up to 84.5% may not seem like as much of an increase, but I would expect that if he hadn't practised his shooting at all during that time, his percentage would have declined instead. – F1Krazy Apr 25 at 12:44
  • Perhaps the law of diminishing returns applies here. – littlecoder Apr 27 at 12:34
  • For the record, 10-15% improvement is a HUGE jump when it comes to FG percentage. Going from a 35% to 50% would be considered proof of improvement. The proof is almost self-evident and obvious. Practicing shooting (which could include changing the shot mechanics) is the primary way to improve shooting. Bad practice or repeating bad habits does no good though, it needs to be productive practice. – A D Apr 27 at 22:39
  • My issue is that 15% of 15-20 years is not 'good enough', I think that we are facing a roadblock in thinking that 50% at any range is solid shooting, much like when no one thought a human could run under a 4 minute mile. Perhaps our current shooting mechanic is far too inefficient to achieve consistent higher results in game. – littlecoder Apr 28 at 14:25
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Few studies are available, however one study I could find to date indicated that shooting 3000 shots in a 4 week period resulted in no improvement to FG%. This holds true at 6000 shots over 10 week period. However, in the same study, students who received feedback on each shot DID improve. This held true in a small sampling of college athletes. This is further supported by the the implementation of free throw programming, with students who had general shooting practice showing no improvement, while those who where given feedback did. Also, focusing on making the shot as opposed to 'chucking up baskets' results in better FG%.

In contrast, one study did find that young boys when exposed to >62 hours of basketball practice along with a shooting program of 2250 shots, did make improvements (there is some issue with the study as we do not know what occurred during 'practice' sessions, therefore we do not know if feedback was being provided). I only question this as a similar program used form work and technique had great improvement as well.

Thus, it would appear that simply 'shooting 100 shots a day', as a coach may say, will NOT improve FG%. Given the data found here, it would be more effective to have the student focus on shot quality. Actually, it would appear from the data that if a shooter is not focused on perfecting shot LEFT/RIGHT(hand and finger form), FRONT/BACK (power), and ANGLE (elbow and release), then the shooter is simply wasting their time. Thus, even if a shot is made, we would need 'grade' our mechanics.

Shooting baskets is a feedback system, without feedback there is no progress. Any further data found I will add to this post for the purpose of creating a more robust recommendation for coaches.

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  • Not sure I'd consider a master's thesis to be particularly compelling evidence, particularly given they tested it on one set of twelve middle school girls... – Joe Jun 16 at 20:51
  • The thesis results still peer reviewed, thus they are relevant and appropriate. It doesn't rise to the significance I desire but it will slowly add to the body of work. – littlecoder Jun 17 at 12:24

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