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No NBA no problem: critiquing Liberty Ballers writer Dan Volpone’s shooting form

About a week ago, our own Harrison Grimm suggested that the Sixers may not have to look too far in this upcoming NBA Draft and that they might consider local talent. If that’s the case, maybe they’d consider drafting one of our writers, Dan Volpone. He’s a Worcester, PA native and a student at the University of Pittsburgh where he plays intramural hoops. Dan is a bit of an older prospect at 21 and at just 5’11 he wouldn’t provide the type of size GM Elton Brand typically looks for in the power forwards he likes to have play guard for the Sixers. But Dan is a pretty good shooter.

OK OK April Fools. So I’m not saying the Sixers are really considering drafting Dan, whose work you may be familiar with. He’s written Sixers Fans, Joel Embiid, and the spite of The Process, “Why I’m retiring to Florida” by Jimmy Butler,” and Uncovering the Sixers’ hidden headband energy and more.

But since there have been no NBA games to cover, I offered my fellow writers a shooting form analysis video and write up and Dan volunteered right away. He’s got a great hoop in his backyard, and while we’re all mostly staying at home and avoiding playing in any games, what better time to work on one’s jump shot. After all, coaches often suggest not scrimmaging or playing in games if one wants to alter their mechanics. So anyone with access to a hoop these days and some time could put some of this restless energy into form work.


First, take a look for yourself at Dan’s form and see what you think. Could he play some off-ball guard alongside Ben Simmons? What tips might you suggest that I did not? What are his greatest strengths as a shooter?

Right elbow

One common issue some shooters have is a right elbow flare. This is when your shooting elbow moves away from your body and you can lose that ~90-degree angle your biceps and forearm should make. See how close his wrist is to his shoulder and how wide his elbow is?

Now Dan’s elbow flare is subtle. Nothing like this fella:

But maybe a little closer to this guy:

If Dan were to bring that right elbow another few inches towards his body and keep it tucked in it would likely help him find more consistency.

Doing so necessarily helps the wrist get under the ball in time to shoot. Focusing on that (especially when shooting on the right side of the rim where it can flare even further off to the side of your body) would go a long way to improving his form.

Something to keep in mind: doing this shifts shot power away from the arm and back muscles down instead to your legs and core. So it’s never a bad thing to strengthen the legs and core when making these changes because a shooter may feel he or she is losing some power/range at first.

Left hand

If you’re not getting the results you want, you can try to retrain your left to do nothing but softly hold the ball until your right arm finishes the job. That means your left palm faces your “3 o clock” as you raise the ball up from your hip and stays that way through the release with no left thumb movement at all. You’ll often see players practicing with one hand right under the rim to fix this tendency because it can be very difficult to change this muscle-memory for a 21 year old.

But in the end, rather than it looking like this when you release:

It could look more like this, see Klay Thompson:

Notice Klay’s left palm stays facing to his right the whole time. Not much extension of the left arm and no twist of the left thumb or wrist. By the time he releases, his left hand has long bid farewell to the rock. This decreases variance.

Follow Through

Dan could work on fully extending his right arm each time so that when he releases his right elbow is almost totally straight, like Mr. Curry here:

Now Dan does that most of the time, but occasionally he only extends about 85-90 percent of the way. If he were to go an extra few percent, and freeze his arm until the ball splashes or bricks, his depth perception should improve dramatically. And he’ll begin to learn precisely why he missed so he can adjust for the next one. “Oh I missed short, let me put a touch more on the next one,” etc.

So rather than a mixed bag of this:

and sometimes this:

We always get this, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki:

Head tilt

Finally, I can’t tell because I’ve never seen Dan shoot in person, but I think his head moves subtly back. Maybe that’s from “ball-watching” rather than target (rim) watching. Or maybe an instinct to avoid scalping himself with the ball. But the excess movement of the head is something to try to avoid as well.

Tucking the elbow in a couple of inches, learning not to shoot with the left thumb, and freezing his release through the make could be the difference in Dan going from intramural hero to the big leagues. Or at least just being a great writer with a somewhat better jump shot.

But if Dan is a lost cause and the Sixers pass on him in this year’s draft, don’t count the bloodline out. Dan’s cousin’s son Jimmy (below with the fresh Thybulle jersey) says he’s going pro and recently asked family if he were drafted by Boston would they still root for him. Now that would be a tough call. I guess we wouldn’t offer Jimmy much help on his form if he winds up in green though. Something to keep an eye on down the road.

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone. Stay safe and if you can, get some shots up. Even if it’s just some paper balls into your garbage can. Don’t be shy to freeze through the make and give everyone a chance to take some pictures.

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