2014-15 Season

Zach LaVine: Two-foot or Not Two-foot?

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) pushes the ball down the court past Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec, 8, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine (8) pushes the ball down the court past Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec, 8, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

During the Timberwolves-Hawks game the other night, Jim Petersen again brought up something he’s mentioned several times during the season: Zach LaVine’s finishing off of one-foot on drives versus finishing off two-feet. In a nutshell, Petersen’s contention was that LaVine is a more consistent finisher at the rim off two-feet than one because it gives him more power, making him better able to finish through contact.

Using video from NBA.com’s media stats site, I looked at all of LaVine’s shots from under 8 feet and did my best to categorize them into 1-footed and 2-footed finishes. I threw out tip-ins and offensive rebounds close to the hoop based on the idea that this is really about how LaVine attacks the hoop from the perimeter. I also threw out fadeaways (of which there weren’t many), and plays where he had a clear lane to the basket, meaning he wasn’t considering finishing through contact. There were certainly gray areas: Do running hooks count? What about near jump stops where he doesn’t continue toward the basket but goes straight up into contact? Generally, I tried to include more instances rather than fewer because it’s not a huge sample size to begin with: 80 shots total.

What I ended up with were 59 shots where LaVine is attacking the rim from the perimeter. The thing about LaVine, though, is that he elevates so quickly that several times it was difficult to tell whether he was taking off with one foot or two feet. Here’s a good example of a one-footed takeoff:

And here’s one from two feet:

I counted 23 one-footed finishes, of which LaVine made 10 or 43.4%. He had 36 two-footed finishes, making 23 of them or 61.1%. That’s a pretty significant difference that backs up Petersen’s assertion that LaVine is more effective finishing with contact off of two feet.

So why is LaVine attacking off of one foot or two feet? I first remember considering this distinction during the 2002 Slam Dunk Contest, when they introduced the ill-fated Wheel of Dunks, where contestants had to replicate great dunks of contests past. The commentators pointed out that some dunkers launch off two-feet and some launch off of one, and that it was sort of unfair to ask one-footed dunkers to do two-footed dunks and vice versa. This is the thing with LaVine: he elevates higher off of one-foot, which is how all his dunk contest dunks were. But he has a more stable base to make adjusts from contact when he takes off two.

The fundamental takeaway here is that a big part of LaVine’s development as a finisher in the NBA might involve him cutting back on his natural instinct to attack off of one-foot and instead focus on launching off two. It probably feels less natural to him right now, but at the NBA level, it’s more important to have that control and power in the air.

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3 thoughts on “Zach LaVine: Two-foot or Not Two-foot?

  1. OK, I’ll bite…

    File this under Petersen’s correct but over obsessed comments. You know, he gets on these ideas and he will bring it up 5 times in one game. I like his work and agree with what he says most of the time, but he gets weirdly obsessive about certain points.

    In this case, he’s correct, but

    -Zach will figure out better techniques, including what number of legs to jumps off of when over time.

    -At least as big a factor in his finishing is figuring out when/how to drive and putting on more weight.

    -Of all the Wolves flaws and weaknesses and all of LaVine’s flaws and weaknesses this hardly seems like a worry priority.

  2. When I see LaVine accelerate toward the hoop, I think of Marbury, who also finished somewhat unconventionally near the hoop. It was an area of concern for him entering the league, and his success at the rim has surprised me because he lacks the strength to dunk through contact the way Wiggins can. Details like this are why I come to this site and a good point of emphasis when there are no games for 4 days.

  3. I’m pretty sure everyone finishes better off of two feet. More body control and balance. Different situations call for different finishes though. Jump stops work wonders when you’re a bit out of control or still haven’t decided whether to pass or shoot. That is taught pretty early. With his speed and hops I can see why he would favor one-legged finishes. I think it is just a matter of him being coached in when to do what.

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