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Visualization helps P.J. Tucker’s game

Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker, right, goes up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 102-96. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

One day after a recent practice, P.J. Tucker was hanging around working on his shot like many of the Phoenix Suns do on a regular basis. In a casual discussion Tucker pointed out how he wanted to improve his shooting percentage in one specific place on the court.

Shot charts have become commonplace across the NBA landscape. Coaching staffs, players and media all incorporate them into what they do — they’re simple and easy to understand.

What the Suns use probably doesn’t look exactly like this, but Tucker has the ability to use a facsimile of the diagram below to help him know where he shoots well and where doesn’t (2014-15 season).


“Shot charts — on the grid you can see,” said Tucker after shootaround on Wednesday. “Maybe if I’m driving, and I’m about to pull up, and I know that spot I haven’t been making a lot from, I might keep driving, and try to get to the rim or try to create a shot for somebody else.”

What Tucker emphasized the most was how the Suns coaching staff made incorporating the information into what each player does on the court a simple process.

“I think coach (Jeff Hornacek) does a good job putting people where they’re successful. I think it’s more them. We know it, because subconsciously in your head, where I shoot better from and where you’re more comfortable shooting. At the end of the day, I think our coaches put us in a position to succeed by putting us in those spots.”

No matter how many numbers a player is made aware of, basketball is still a game of instinct. When they have to make split-second decisions, the info must be used naturally within the flow of a game. If it takes a tick too long to make a move or release a shot that could be the difference between success and failure.

“It’s a fine line,” explained Tucker. “And like I said, being able to see it, having it in your hand and being able to look at it, so when you’re playing it’s kind of in your mind too.”

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