Aussies in NBA: The story behind Bogut’s free throw shooting

Andrew Bogut doesn’t shoot many free throws. To be exact, he’s only averaging only one attempt per game this season. It’s just as well, because he doesn’t shoot them very well, posting a 43.5% success rate. For all of his canniness on offense with his passing and ability to slip to the rim for alley-oop finishes, he isn’t too good with an uncontested shot from 15 feet away.

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The Warriors center’s issues at the line look like they come down to one simple, basic thing: his form.


 
Did you catch it? Bogut did make one, but there’s a noticeable hitch at the end of his shooting form. Good shooting stems from a smooth flow of energy from the legs right up to the fingertips as the ball is released. Any disruption to that flow, tends to result in a jerky release.

For a player who approaches the game the right right way, focused on winning and not stat-hunting, one might wonder why Bogey hasn’t worked on his shooting more. Practice makes perfect, right? Well, it turns out it’s not exactly something he can control.

Ever since his gruesome elbow injury back in 2010, the big man’s right arm has never been the same. In a fascinating interview with Ian Thomsen in May 2015, Bogut revealed that he can’t even extend it fully without potentially causing himself pain.

“Sometimes I will shoot and my elbow will give out and it will hurt, like a stabbing pain,” he said. “And then the next time when I shoot it’s fine. And I don’t know when it’s going to come.”

Not only that, the unpredictable nature of the injury also wrecks havoc on Bogut’s shooting consistency.

“It’s always tight,” he said of his right elbow. “It’s just my touch. Some days I will shoot the ball the way I was shooting pre-injury, and I feel good. And then I might just sleep funny on it or something, and I wake up and it’s a little tight and it changes my shot.”

This persistent issue has led to many things, one of which became an experiment in shooting with his left hand.

“I’ve always been comfortable with my left,” Bogut related to Tim Kawakami of Mercury News in 2012. “I can shoot free throws with my left. When my elbow was all messed up I was seriously considering changing to a left-handed stroke.” However, this plan doesn’t seem to have taken off, as he shoots with his right hand now.

There’s also something to be said about the higher pressure that comes with free throws; all eyes on you, nothing else happening on the court. Over-thinking shot mechanics is a legitimate issue when it comes to shooting. It’s why something like this can happen:

 
No time left on the shot clock, just throw up a prayer that no one can blame you for missing. Not only is there no psychological pressure to make the shot, there’s no time to think about how you shoot and muscle memory takes over. Result: Bogey’s form looked good on that shot! But, for all we know, that was just one of the times where the pain didn’t rear its ugly head. Who can tell?

Bogut freely acknowledges the mental hurdles that exist with regards to his shooting.

“Definitely, the confidence is down,” he said. “It’s something I’m going to work through in the summer, and every summer – try to focus on getting flexibility and strength back. But with the grind of the NBA season, and falling down on it sometimes, it’s tough. It’s tough mentally. The hardest part is mentally.”


It appears that, through no fault of his own, Bogut will be plagued by this issue until he hangs up his sneakers. However, the focus when thinking about his career should be on his successful transition into becoming an efficient plus/minus superstar, given his physical limitations.

He’s not going to jump out of the gym, he’s not going to beat a ton of people in a foot race, and he’s certainly not going to shoot the lights out. The Bogeyman however, excels in the most important stat of all: the win column.

“OK, there are times when I need to be more aggressive, definitely, and I look to do that sometimes,” he said. “But you think about it, and you’re like: Why? We won 67 games. So play defense, set screens, rebound, get some offensive rebounds, get guys open, pass the ball. I think it’s been pretty successful.”

One championship ring and a record-breaking start to an NBA season later, that philosophy continues to sound like a very solid one.

Winston Zhang

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A Dallas Mavericks fan since 2008, Winston has experienced the highs of a Championship and the lows of having Mike James as your starting point guard. He also believes that Rick Carlisle is a coaching warlock. YOU certainly can't prove otherwise.

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