If Kyle Kuzma is working on something, chances are you’ll find out about it in one way or another. This summer, his focus has to be on rebounding from the poor shooting season he had a year ago (30.3 percent from deep, 45.6 percent from the field), and so far, he’s apparently made some fairly big changes.
Shooting coach “Lethal Shooter” has been working pretty extensively with Kuzma this offseason and put up a video detailing some of the things they’re focused on. It’s pretty fascinating.
One thing about @kylekuzma he’s never satisfied. Early mornings and late nights are starting to pay off. Changing 8 major key components to his jumper. Balance, higher release etc. Re-versing old muscle memory isn’t easy but with his dedication we will get there. #NBA #Lakers pic.twitter.com/lQMYaxsDq5— Lethal Shooter (@LethalShooter__) July 15, 2019
Our own Coach Pete then chimed in with what he saw as the major difference in this shooting form compared to Kuzma shooting last year.
The biggest difference that I noticed in the video of Kuz's jumper that @LethalShooter__ posted is a much higher set point. It used to be right in front of his forehead. Here's a side-by-side comparison. pic.twitter.com/26MCmQpWdb— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) July 15, 2019
So a couple notes on the benefits of this raised set point:
First and foremost, this is all made possible by Kuzma getting stronger. Typically, a lower set point allows for increased range. It’s unlikely that he would raise it and put the distance from where he could hit at any kind of risk. So in a way, even more-so than the hundreds of clips of him working out, this is some legitimate proof of the fruits of that labor.
Second, raising the set point allows for better vision throughout the shot. For the vast majority of the time basketball has been played, most players have focused on raising the set point above their eye. In recent years, following the lead from Stephen Curry, some have actually lowered it to at or below eye-level, so as to increase their range.
Last season, as Pete points out, Kuzma had his set point literally at eye level, which meant at a key point of the shooting motion, he lost sight of the target pretty much altogether. This can lead to wild inconsistencies, as you would imagine.
Something else Lethal Shooter points out: Kuzma’s improved balance on the shot. Look again at the comparative clips Pete put together — specifically right at the beginning.
With the obvious disclaimer that one shot is alone in an empty gym and the other is during a game, notice the difference in posture. In the image on the left, Kuzma’s head is right above his feet. On the right, he’s leaning pretty obviously forward.
What this means is that last season, while he was moving upward through the shot, Kuzma also had to re-balance himself, which, again, leads to wild inconsistencies, as there’s simply no way to repeat that motion consistently.
By focusing on posture at the start, that eliminates the wasted motion and focus to regain balance Kuzma had to deal with last season. Between this and raising the set point (so long as it doesn’t detract from his range), those are two tweaks that could pay huge dividends moving forward.
As Lethal Shooter points out, though, these are fairly major changes that will take a long time to get comfortable with. It’s easy enough to work on these things in an empty gym with nothing else really to focus on, but in game situations, players almost always revert back to old habits their body is more comfortable with, especially if they aren’t seeing immediate positive returns on the changes they’ve made.
Implementing all these changes to the point where they all feel natural enough to utilize in game situations is a long, arduous process. No one has ever questioned Kuzma’s work ethic — and how could they, given how much video exists of him working. But improving as a shooter isn’t just about working hard. It takes immense dedication to fight through the lack of comfort that comes from changing things you’ve been doing years.
If Kuzma is able to get comfortable enough to make and stick with these changes, he could very not just rebound from last year’s struggles, but live up to the promise the Lakers love to hype up with him. And if he does that, then this team is capable of quite a bit more than we might have previously thought.