Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver obsesses over every detail of his jump shot, and it's made him a nightmare for defenses

Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver is on pace for a historic shooting season.

Through 48 games, Korver is shooting 52% from the field, 54% from three, and 92% from the free throw line. If he finishes the season with these marks, he’d only be the second player — and the first ever starter — to have a 50-50-90 shooting season.

Korver’s rise to becoming the NBA’s best shooter defies common logic about age in the NBA. Korver turning 34 this season, and still improving at a time when almost all players decline.

Though Korver has always been an elite shooter — he’s shoots 43% from three-point range for his career — he’s obsessed over the details of his jumper, wanting to perfect his craft.

Korver recently told Jeff Zigglitt of USA Today that he has a 20-point checklist of mechanics for his jumper. They include basic principles like “Up strong,” “elbow straight,” “hold follow-through,” to more advanced ideas like “engage core,” “slight bend at waist,” “shoulders forward and relaxed.”

Korver mentions that he doesn’t necessarily think of all 20 points on every shot, but says, “There’s a certain point, a certain feel I’m trying to get to every day… As I’m shooting, I have this list in the back of my head, and I know I’m not doing one or two of them. Once I feel I get all 20 of them clicking, then I’m going to have natural rhythm in my shot.”

Korver also told Zigglitt that his practice routines differ from most players. While some players will shoot hundreds of jump shots from certain locations, Korver takes far fewer attempts, but tries to simulate in-game action.

“I don’t ever shoot a ton of shots at once because I want to shoot them game-like. You can’t shoot 500 shots at the exact speed and exact intensity that you’re going to in a game. Very rarely will I shoot more than 150 shots at once.”

Instead, Korver does four brief sessions throughout a day on gamedays, each one ending with a mandatory finish: 10 consecutive free throws and three consecutive three-pointers from the top of the arc. If he misses one, he starts over.

Korver’s dedication to his body has also helped change his career arc for the better. In 2008, he began seeing Marcus Elliot of P3, a sports science and medical lab that helps with injury prevention. Korver was bothered by knee, wrist, and elbow issues, and sought help from P3. Using motion-capture cameras that capture thousands of data points, they broke down Korver’s shot and found inconsistencies in his knee, back, and elbow. They set up a program for Korver to rehab his form, with Korver telling SI’s Chris Ballard that he had to “reprogram” his body.

Korver and Elliot do offseason training together that borders on insanity. The training centres on a philosophy of Elliot’s called “misogi” which focuses on pushing a body to its limits because the struggle reinforces the lesson.

One training session involved them running a 5k on the ocean floor while carrying an 85-pound rock. Korver and his other trainees took turns carrying the rock a certain distance, passing it off, going to the surface for air, and then continuing the run.

Korver, Elliot, and co. also decided to do a 25-mile stand-up paddleboard trip from the Channel Islands to Santa Barbara, California. The process was painful. Korver told Outside Magazine that his toes bled and he was getting knocked over by small swells.

To overcome the struggle, Korver began focusing on perfecting his paddle, which helps explain his dedication to his shooting technique. He told Outside Magazine:

“All I could do was focus on each stroke. How far am I taking it out of the water? Where’s my release? My shoulders, my knees: Am I bent in? Can I balance better? I was analysing every piece of that stroke and making it absolutely perfect.”

Korver also says the intensity of the training helps him “grind” all game, even if he isn’t the most athletic player.

All of this intense training and obsession over technique and process has made Korver a menace on offence. Korver leads the NBA in three-point percentage, and his 71.6% eFG (a percentage that weighs three-pointers with two-pointers and free throws) is the highest of any guard who plays at least 20 minutes per game. The second-closest wing player has an eFG of 59%.

On catch-and-shoot opportunities, Korver is almost automatic from three:

In transition, the Hawks actively seek Korver, knowing a three-pointer from him is practically as efficient as a layup:

As Zach Lowe notes, Korver has a “gravitational pull” to him that is a nightmare for defenses. The Hawks can spread the floor by keeping Korver stationary on the perimeter with defenders unable to help off of him, or they can move Korver around, running him off screens that make defenses scramble as they try to catch up to him, leaving other Hawks open in the process.

Here, Korver coming off a screen sucks in an extra defender, leaving Hawks forward Mike Scott and open cut to the basket, where Korver finds him:

With Korver on the floor, the Hawks have an absurd 111.8 offensive rating, the highest of any team in the NBA if that number was sustained.

Though Korver doesn’t possess the overall athleticism, flash, or one-on-one skills of the top scorers in the NBA, his effect on the Hawks offence is just as important. He’s become such a weapon from three-point range, that defenses have to stay on him or he’ll punish them for leaving him open.

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