Wizards players on importance of shooting spots

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON -- Fairly often, when asked what led to them going off for a big scoring night, NBA players will mention their "spots," meaning where they are most comfortable and effective shooting from on the floor. Take Grizzlies star Ja Morant, for instance, who last month explained a 38-point performance against the Nuggets as follows:

“I was able to get to my spots on the floor, which I excel at,” Morant said. “And once I get to my normal spots, it’s pretty much buckets.”

Establishing those spots, however, usually takes time, experience and a ton of repetition in practice. Many young players do not have any reliable spots yet. Those who have the most-developed spots are so good at scoring from them, they don't even need to see the basket. it is entirely based on muscle memory.

DeMar DeRozan is one player who can do that, according to those on the Wizards who have been tasked with guarding him.

"You think about guys like DeMar DeRozan," Kyle Kuzma said. "He does it every single night. He does it with hands in his face, through pump fakes. That’s a great player."

"That’s the first name that got into my mind. DeMar is really good at it," Deni Avdija said.

Many of the league's top stars are automatic from certain areas. Chris Paul is another, as Kuzma explained, and it's no surprise the spot he's most famous for is in the midrange.


"He knows his spots on the court. When in doubt, he’s trying to get to the right elbow to shoot his shot," Kuzma said. "That’s something that he’s done a million-million times and it’s something he’s very confident in. He knows that anything down the court, I don’t know what to do, shot-clock is going down, I can get to that spot."

Both Kuzma and Avdija said they aren't on that level yet. Kuzma said he is confident he can hit tough shots, but the degree to which DeRozan and Paul can make contested jumpers is something he strives for.

"I’m not there yet, I want to be," he said.

Avdija said at this point in his career he is most concerned with taking good shots, regardless of where they are. That means shots that are in the rhythm of the offense, without defenders near him and, ideally, not too early in the shot clock. 

But he sees the importance of developing go-to spots down the road.

"If the ball is in your hands, you’re dribbling out and you know you need to hit that game-winner or hit that big shot, you need to know your spots... I think the elite of the elite players know their spots. Not even their spots, their signature moves. They know what they want to get to. Everybody knows what they’re going to try to do and you still can’t stop it," Avdija said.

Players also need to know where their teammates like to shoot, so they can get them the ball for efficient looks. They, of course, also need to be aware of where their opponents like to shoot from in order to take those spots away.

Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has to keep all of it in mind when developing game plans for his team. Offensively, he factors in a long list of player-specific details. Among those details he said are players' dominant hands, which areas they like to operate in the post and which direction they like to turn when running off pindowns.

"All those things, they kind of go into that whole picture when you’re developing not only an overall structure, but targeted offense for each individual," Unseld Jr. said.

The players themselves are unlikely to offer up where their spots are, even if it may be obvious to their opponents who study film of them. It's proprietary information in a way, but also technically readily available. Each player has their shot chart and shooting splits listed on the internet.

Kuzma, for instance, is most effective around the rim but also shoots a higher percentage from the right corner. He's also generally more efficient when he shoots off the catch or off one dribble as opposed to two or more. Avdija is good in the paint outside the restricted area, particularly with his floater, and from the right corner. 

When it comes to their teammates, Raul Neto is excellent in the lane outside the restricted area, shooting his best percentage from 10 to 16 feet. Rui Hachimura likes to shoot from the elbows and is most accurate from 3-point range above the break. Corey Kispert is accurate from both corners and has shown a knack for pull-up jumpers near the free-throw line.


Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a fairly balanced shot profile with plenty from three, in the midrange and around the rim. But he's especially good from the corners and makes the most corner threes among Wizards players. Bradley Beal also paints his shot chart fairly evenly and, as a two-time 30-point scorer, has a lot of spots on the court he's comfortable scoring from. That's what makes him so difficult to stop.

How players like to score also gets a lot more detailed than that, as Unseld Jr. indicated with which direction players like to turn on certain actions. It's a puzzle and one everyone on the Wizards is continually working to solve.