It’s no secret that Stu Douglass is struggling to find his shooting stroke this season. His stroke looks pure, calm and confident but the ball is not finding the bottom of the net.
Douglass is shooting just 28 percent from three point range and has failed to make two threes in a row this season. Ignoring caveats about sample size, the numbers are ugly and there’s no denying that Douglass is struggling. John Beilein emphasized on Saturday that Douglass still has the green light to shoot and that there’s “not much you can do” to eliminate a shooting slump. Here’s a closer look at Douglass’s struggles, a video study of his jumpshot and how his performance could improve going forward.
First things first, and despite Ken Pomeroy’s computers comparing Douglass’s freshman year to Jimmer Fredette’s, Douglass has never been a truly great shooter throughout his career at Michigan. He’s still been a good shooter, and a better shooter than this. His three point shooting percentages by season (freshman->senior): 34%, 33%, 36%, 28%. This isn’t a one time 45 percent three point shooter suddenly making less than 30 percent of his threes but it’s one of Michigan’s primary shooting threats struggling mightily.
The problem with shooting slumps is that they grow exponentially. A shooter knows he’s struggling, he knows everyone knows he’s struggling and he wants to make the next shot a little more than the one before it. Back to Douglass, here’s video of his last 20 three point attempts (of which he made six) dating back to the Memphis game.
There are a lot of deep three point attempts in this reel. And it’s worth noting that Douglass actually makes some of his more difficult attempts. However, just about any shooter is going to make a lower percentage of their 25+ foot attempts compared to 22-foot attempts. He’s hit his fair share of deep threes throughout his career but at some point a conscious effort needs to be made to work toward attempting slightly better looks – especially early in the shot clock.
Stu’s three point attempts breakdown into roughly three categories: half court catch and shoot attempts, transition threes and dribble handoffs. Here’s the breakdown of his percentages with each type of attempt over the last six games:
- Dribble Handoffs/Screens: 3-4
- Catch and Shoot/Kick Outs: 3-12
- Transition: 0-4
Despite attempting most of his threes off of kick outs and extra passes, Douglass seems most successful shooting the ball when he’s allowed to work off of some sort of screen. Whether it’s a dribble hand-off or a little curl, motion off the ball seems to help him find a consistent stroke. He’s also usually closer to the basket when shooting off of some kind of motion.
Some his shots off of screens are actually better defended than some of the wide open kick out looks. However, he seems to find a groove when he has to move his feet heading into a shot. Part of the problem with the kick out attempts is that Stu seems to position himself too far away from the three point line, making even wide open looks more difficult than they should be.
As for the transition attempts, the themes are constant: rushed motion, sloppy feet and not lackluster decision making. This is a subjective observation, but over their careers I would say that Novak has been a much more effective transition three point shooter while Douglass has been more effective in the half court. Not only is Douglass not the most effective in transition, there are far better looks than a 25-foot jumper early in the shot clock and a long miss in that scenario is almost as costly as a turnover..
The Point Guard Dilemma.
Douglass played significant minutes at the point guard during his sophomore season and is helping to shoulder some of those duties yet again this season. His sophomore season was his worst year shooting the ball and this season is trending to be worse. It’s tough to judge correlation versus causation but this is certainly something to keep an eye on.
Often times shooters struggle with confidence when they are experiencing tough times shooting the ball. This doesn’t appear to be a problem for Douglass. This is a good thing, even if it leads to a couple cringe worthy three point attempts. A shooter is truly broken when they start passing up open three point looks and that’s something that we haven’t seen much of from Douglass at this juncture.
Douglass is a better shooter than what we’ve seen and if he’s going to average 4.5 three point attempts per game, Michigan needs him to connect at a higher rate. In a perfect world, Douglass will regain some confidence throughout December and hit the ground running in Big Ten play. The first step toward achieving three point shooting normalcy will be drawing in his average shot distance.