The San Antonio Spurs are coming off one of their most dominant wins of the season against the Houston Rockets this past Wednesday despite Keldon Johnson sitting out with a lower back contusion. Devin Vassell led the way yet again with an impressive 26-point, 5-assist, 4-rebound outing while Malaki Branham had the best scoring game of his young career, putting up 14 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds in his 21.5 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Jakob Poeltl is clearly still working his way back to full health and conditioning, but that hasn't stopped the trade talks revolving around him.
Jeremy Sochan had an impressive two-way performance of his own, having put up 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists, but in case you missed it, all the rage (and the mini internet freakout) was about him beginning to shoot one-handed free throws seemingly out of nowhere.
Faceless Twitter profiles and Russell Westbrook stan accounts alike had some... colorful things to say about the young rookie, who's only managed to knock down 43% of his free throws on the season. Even some Spurs fans and more reputable names around NBA Twitter had some real moments of pause seeing Sochan shoot one-handed free throws in an actual NBA game, and understandably so. After all, when's the last time you've seen that happen in a game with real stakes?
Yes, there is a method to Jeremy Sochan's madness
If you think it's highly unusual to see someone shooting one-handed free throws in a live game setting, that's because it is highly unusual. But that doesn't make what he's doing wrong, and I find it difficult to believe that the coaching staff wasn't in on his decision to do so in one way or another. But if you're here wondering why Sochan would resort to shooting this way, it comes down to his shooting form.
If you take a look at the video above, which was posted just over a year ago, it shows Sochan's jump-shooting mechanics in slow motion. But what I think needs to be paid the closest attention to in this case is the position of his hands on the ball at the point of release. Specifically, you'll notice that the shooting hand (his right hand) is positioned ever so slightly toward the side of the ball rather than directly in line with the hoop.
This can be seen again in a video taken during the pre-draft process this past season both from the back (beginning at the 30-second mark) and the front (beginning at the 1:13 mark). It's very subtle and a bit difficult to notice when watching at full speed, but when pausing the video as he brings the ball above his head, it's quite a bit more noticeable. Sochan's hand isn't so far to the side that the shot is two-handed, per se, but this inconsistency could be enough to throw off a jump shot from long range or free throws from a standstill.
Believe it or not, this is where the one-handed shooting comes into play. Shooting the ball one-handed from a standstill is a common form-shooting drill that is even available to see in video form on the official USA Basketball website. While the drill isn't typically something that can be replicated in a live game, if it ever is used in a game setting, it would have to occur at the free-throw line. If Sochan (and/or the Spurs' training staff) is attempting to rework his shooting mechanics by forcing himself to correctly position his shooting hand, this drill is the way to do it.
Moving forward, we may or may not see Sochan continue this form shooting from the free-throw line, particularly in close-game situations. But regardless, Sochan's willingness to take an opportunity to continue his development in a live game like this is appaudable, particularly considering how rarely something like this is seen out of practice. If you're asking me, I say let him shoot it from the line one-handed all he wants for the rest of the season.