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.