Take a look at this before Dallas’ game against Denver on Monday and try to find any flaw in Yogi Ferrell’s shooting form.
Hint: There’s not much, if anything wrong with it.
— Zack Cunningham👨🏻💻 (@ZCunninghamNBA) December 4, 2017
How in the world did he go undrafted?
Yogi Ferrell was Dallas’ best story of the 2016-17 NBA season and he’s continued to play a key role as part of the Mavericks’ youth movement off the bench this season. It’s well known at this point the 24-year old was cut by the Brooklyn Nets after playing for their G-League affiliate, clearing the way for Dallas to take a flier on the former Indiana University standout. The results?
Ferrell became a cult hero for Mavericks fans with his explosive performance in Portland (32 points, nine 3s) and while some feared it might be a flash in the pan, the diminutive guard proved everyone wrong by morphing into a consistent contributor off of Dallas’ bench for the rest of the season.
In 36 games with the Mavericks last year, Ferrell shot 40% from deep and averaged 11 points per game (stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com). He’s continued his solid play as of late after a rocky start and has even earned eight starts in the 2017-18 season.
Let’s take a deeper dive into Ferrell’s game. Here’s a few glances at his form during his senior season with Indiana.
Here’s a look at Yogi with a pull-up 3 on the break:
Ferrell finished his four-year career with Indiana as a 39.9% shooter from deep. He peaked during his senior season at 42% on five attempts per game (stats courtesy of sports-reference.com).
Yogi’s prowess as a shooter isn’t lost on Joey Burton, who has worked with Ferrell since after his junior year with the Hoosiers.
“He’s a very industrious person,” he said. “And he’s a total professional when it comes to his basketball work.”
Ferrell gets a ton of lift on his shot, exploding upward higher than probably any other Maverick does on their release. His off-hand action is minimal, reducing any unwanted impact on his release and he gets plenty of solid wrist action. The ball is out in front of his face, maybe slightly high, but there’s no hitch whatsoever. As Coach Nick for bballbreakdown.com says, it “looks NICE.”
Burton said during college, tinkering with the release helped Yogi unlock the ability to be the sniper that he’s shown he can be in the NBA.
“He [would] jump extremely high on his shot and, at times, he would hold or or not let it go early enough. Those things would affect his power and the arc of the shot,” he said.
“He was in a really bad habit of doing that [back then] and our first time in the gym, I asked him, ‘Hey, do you mind if I tell you something?’ Most guys say no or wouldn’t want to hear it, but he was open to what I had to say. I asked him, ‘Do you feel a lot of the time you shoot it on the way down?’ He said he’d been told that and he’d tried to work on it but it hadn’t been something he’d been able to perfect.”
Given Ferrell’s size, it’s expected that he would need to leverage his other athletic abilities to optimize his shot. Standing just 6′ tall, Ferrell’s elevation would seem to be key to getting his shot off over higher defenders. Per nba.com, 33.5% Ferrell’s opportunities this year are coming on catch-and-shoot situations and of those, 31.2% are from deep. Ferrell is knocking them down 37% of the time.
“We went to work on that,” Burton said. “We [also] made sure the ball was on the right side of his eyebrow. Sometimes he’d bring it back to get more power. It was more about making sure he was getting the arc and the upward trajectory with his jump and pushing up.
“He started really investing it and putting time in it. We developed a really good relationship and he watched every clip I showed him. Every shot he takes, we evaluate it.”
In addition to being a catch-and-shoot threat, Ferrell is primarily a pull-up threat for Dallas off the bench (46.8% of his shot attempts are pull-ups). In those situations, he’s launching threes 20% of the time and hitting 37% on around 1.5 attempts per game.
As far as location is concerned, Ferrell is shooting 85% of his 3-point attempts from above the break and knocking down 34.7%. Last year, he shot 39.5% from the same location, perhaps an indication opposing teams are keying in on Ferrell’s sweet spots.
As you’d expect, Ferrell is taking zero dribbles on 35.3% percent of his field goal attempts which presents a challenge for a shooter because a rhythm dribble can be a key component in a player’s psyche when they’re preparing to launch from deep.
Burton says a particular workout during Ferrell’s junior year at Indiana helped the guard unlock something in his deeper shot.
“I wanted to make sure he was getting enough arc on his shot, so I had him out around 24-25 feet. He wasn’t sure he could use that kind of arc and still get it to the rim, but he hit like 10-12 in a row and was just knocking them down,” he said.
“That night I saw I had a lot of mentions on Twitter. He had tweeted out ‘I’m about to start calling Joey the ‘shot doctor.””
Burton is quick to defer credit despite Ferrell’s names for him, but he has been in contact with Ferrell through his initial 10-day contract with the Mavericks and the subsequent extension through the end of the 2016-17 season.
Dallas so far has gotten a bargain on Ferrell. He’s making $1.3 million this year and has a $1.75 million qualifying offer coming up this summer. Rick Carlisle has a penchant for rolling out three-guard lineups so the elder J.J. Barea’s contract (two years remaining at $3.9 million and $3.7 million, respectively) isn’t as much a hindrance to Ferrell’s fit on the Mavericks as you might expect.
Dallas certainly hopes Ferrell can continue to blossom into the kind of second-unit scoring threat that Barea has become after the Puerto Rican fan favorite’s contract is up, and he’s definitely shown flashes of the ability to do so. Ferrell also has proven to be a pesky defender (Dallas’ defensive rating is nearly 15 points better with Ferrell on the court, 99.8 compared to 114.6 this season).
Burton said he and Ferrell also worked on finishing better at the rim and studied film of Kyrie Irving this past summer. Yogi was 3-of-4 in the restricted area in Monday’s win over Denver, a contest in which he finished with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, a season high.
“He worked a lot on his own and we worked on finishing through contact,” he said. “He would take 10 minutes by the rim and just work on using different spin off the backboard with either hand and with different angles. Visually, he’s a much better finisher than at any point in his career.”
Ferrell is shooting 60% within five feet of the rim per nba.com/stats. That’s up from 40% from last season, so it looks like the doctor has prescribed the right medicine.
Burton, however, is quick to deflect credit for Ferrell’s rise into an NBA-caliber point guard.
“He’s stuck at it,” he said. “He’s a tireless worker and a true professional. He wants to shoot the right way every time.”
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