The Anatomy of a Shooting Slump: Stu Douglass

Dylan Burkhardt

It’s no secret that Stu Douglass is struggling to find his shooting stroke this season. His stroke looks pure, calm and confident but the ball is not finding the bottom of the net.

Douglass is shooting just 28 percent from three point range and has failed to make two threes in a row this season. Ignoring caveats about sample size, the numbers are ugly and there’s no denying that Douglass is struggling. John Beilein emphasized on Saturday that Douglass still has the green light to shoot and that there’s “not much you can do” to eliminate a shooting slump. Here’s a closer look at Douglass’s struggles, a video study of his jumpshot and how his performance could improve going forward.

First things first, and despite Ken Pomeroy’s computers comparing Douglass’s freshman year to Jimmer Fredette’s, Douglass has never been a truly great shooter throughout his career at Michigan. He’s still been a good shooter, and a better shooter than this. His three point shooting percentages by season (freshman->senior): 34%, 33%, 36%, 28%. This isn’t a one time 45 percent three point shooter suddenly making less than 30 percent of his threes but it’s one of Michigan’s primary shooting threats struggling mightily.

The problem with shooting slumps is that they grow exponentially. A shooter knows he’s struggling, he knows everyone knows he’s struggling and he wants to make the next shot a little more than the one before it. Back to Douglass, here’s video of his last 20 three point attempts (of which he made six) dating back to the Memphis game.

Shot Selection.
There are a lot of deep three point attempts in this reel. And it’s worth noting that Douglass actually makes some of his more difficult attempts. However, just about any shooter is going to make a lower percentage of their 25+ foot attempts compared to 22-foot attempts. He’s hit his fair share of deep threes throughout his career but at some point a conscious effort needs to be made to work toward attempting slightly better looks – especially early in the shot clock.

Shot Types:
Stu’s three point attempts breakdown into roughly three categories: half court catch and shoot attempts, transition threes and dribble handoffs. Here’s the breakdown of his percentages with each type of attempt over the last six games:

  • Dribble Handoffs/Screens: 3-4
  • Catch and Shoot/Kick Outs: 3-12
  • Transition: 0-4

Despite attempting most of his threes off of kick outs and extra passes, Douglass seems most successful shooting the ball when he’s allowed to work off of some sort of screen. Whether it’s a dribble hand-off or a little curl, motion off the ball seems to help him find a consistent stroke. He’s also usually closer to the basket when shooting off of some kind of motion.

Some his shots off of screens are actually better defended than some of the wide open kick out looks. However, he seems to find a groove when he has to move his feet heading into a shot. Part of the problem with the kick out attempts is that Stu seems to position himself too far away from the three point line, making even wide open looks more difficult than they should be.

As for the transition attempts, the themes are constant: rushed motion, sloppy feet and not lackluster decision making. This is a subjective observation, but over their careers I would say that Novak has been a much more effective transition three point shooter while Douglass has been more effective in the half court. Not only is Douglass not the most effective in transition, there are far better looks than a 25-foot jumper early in the shot clock and a long miss in that scenario is almost as costly as a turnover..

The Point Guard Dilemma.
Douglass played significant minutes at the point guard during his sophomore season and is helping to shoulder some of those duties yet again this season. His sophomore season was his worst year shooting the ball and this season is trending to be worse. It’s tough to judge correlation versus causation but this is certainly something to keep an eye on.

Often times shooters struggle with confidence when they are experiencing tough times shooting the ball. This doesn’t appear to be a problem for Douglass. This is a good thing, even if it leads to a couple cringe worthy three point attempts. A shooter is truly broken when they start passing up open three point looks and that’s something that we haven’t seen much of from Douglass at this juncture.

Bottom Line

Douglass is a better shooter than what we’ve seen and if he’s going to average 4.5 three point attempts per game, Michigan needs him to connect at a higher rate. In a perfect world, Douglass will regain some confidence throughout December and hit the ground running in Big Ten play. The first step toward achieving three point shooting normalcy will be drawing in his average shot distance.

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  • Jeff

    Watching that video the first thing that jumped out at me immediately was how often he shoots anywhere from two to five feet behind the line. I wonder if he’s been so desperate to break out of the slump that if he’s open, he’s shooting, regardless of where he is.

  • section13row15

    Look how much better served a guy like Smotrycz is by faking and dribbling two steps then shooting. Even Novak has found a solid mid range game this season. Stu needs to use that same judgement when outside the arc at times.

  • ZRL

    I wouldn’t exactly say Stu is struggling. I feel like Stu gets in a 2 month slump every year where he shoots under 30% then goes on like a 6 game tear where he shoots 50% to bring his average up to 35%. It’s just who he is.

    • Offtopic_Pedant

      Sample size and regression to the mean:

      20 shots is waaaaaaay too small of a sample to call a guy out for shooting 5 percentage points under his last year’s average.  If just one shot that was in-and-out drops, he’s shooting better than his career average.  I also tend to believe that he’ll end up somewhere around 35% at the end of the season, but that’s not based on his statistical output so far — at this point of the year, the difference between 30% and 40% is tiny.
      EDIT: I was just looking at his stats from the last 6 games, but broader point remains.

  • Beilein’s Swish

    His shot selection has always been an issue, and I agree that he needs to start taking them closer to the 3-point line.  I really do think he believes he’s a better 3-point shooter than he really is.  He has to stop taking those 28 footers which he probably makes on 10% of his attempts.

    He’s an ok shooter, but he’ll never be a great shooter and the more he realizes this, the better he can be and put himself in position to succeed.  I think if he gains 2 percentage points to his 3-point shooting average (~38%), it’ll be a successful season for him.

  • gpsimms

    Stu has even said in the past he feels like he shoots better when he is moving before getting set.  He is definitely hurting himself on the kickouts because he sets up too deep.  I’m not sure why he does that, and it seems like it should be easy to fix.

  • Kenny

    I have been one of the biggest critics of Stu this season. I saw improvement from every returning player on this team, including Vogrich whose shots are not falling either, except Stu. Maybe after the departure of Morris, Stu believes that he is taking over the PG duty and decide to play like Morris.  It makes me crazy every time stu is dribbling aimlessly with 10 seconds on the shooting clock. He needs change his mind set and realize that in reality he will never make plays Morris made, and be happy to stay in his role as a sniper. I think that Beilein had said something in public that Stu should focus to be a shooter, and his minutes have gone done in favor of Akunne. 

  • Toblav

    Actually Stu has expanded his game, with some nice drives and finishes and feeds off the drive.  Those are things we haven’t seen from him much in the past.  I think all he needs is to shoot to a pin point spot (at the front or back of the rim depending on what works for him), instead of the basket in general.

  • rlcBlue

    I was going to say that Stu needs to set up closer to the three point line on the kick outs – even when he’s open he’s well behind the line – but then I realized this:

    Whenever Burke penetrates, Douglass MUST rotate back to balance the floor or risk giving away a fast break basket on a turnover or long rebound. I think that’s part of the reason he’s not setting up right on the three point line.

    What this means, though, is that even when he’s wide open for the kick, the shot he’s open for may not be the best one available, or a good enough one to justify taking it right away. It’s a tough call – Beilein always wants his shooters to feel confident in taking open shots, but he also relies on them to recognize the difference between “available” and “worth taking right now.”  I think it would be better for the team if, when Stu finds himself open for the 25-footer, rather than automatically heaving up the shot he sees if there’s a way to take advantage of the defense reacting to his openness, either by making the extra pass or stepping into a shorter shot. But he has to do this without overthinking or doubting his shooting ability – a really tough thing to do.

  • DCF

    Great video, Dylan.  It’s not really a shooting slump if all of his shots are low-percentage attempts. All 3’s aren’t created equal.

    I love the rhythym and smoothness of Douglass’s stroke, but this video shows just how poor his shot selection is. I think about 90% of his threes are NBA range. After four years chucking up 3’s in this system, Douglass doesn’t give me much hope for improvement.

    Regardless, I like Stu and wish him and the team the best!

    Go Blue!

  • Mattski

    Prediction–Stu will continue to annoy fans and also hit some big threes for Michigan down the road this season. He’s got a lot of range on his shot, btw; I’ll bet he drills a lot of those bad boys in practice. 

  • Kenny

    I think the worst part about his shooting woes, isn’t necessarily the misses (well obviously that sucks too) but more so how much time is left on the shot clock. Since Maui every three he has taken there was AT LEAST 18 seconds left on the shot clock and more often more than 24 seconds. This is a killer this season with the shots being created by Burke, and kick outs. Contested misses okay, contested misses with 30 seconds left on the shot clock, opportunity loss.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    People complain that Stu doesn’t drive and dish/kick/finish enough.  Stu drives more and dishes/kicks/finishes more.  People complain Stu thinks he is Darius Morris.  He’s had 0 TOs in 3 of his last 4 games and 1 the game before that.  He did have 5 against UCLA and 2 a couple times early on.  This is not to say Stu is now a certified slasher, but geez, Stu cannot win for trying. 

    As for his shooting slump, as someone else mentioned, it has long been known by Stu and others that he shoots better coming off screens/moving, etc.  That is frustrating but has proven hard to remedy.  Also, it does seem that Stu is a bit streaky regardless.  And some of those (though not all, certainly) have come late in the shot clock.  I do agree Stu could stand to move in sometimes.  Anyway, he’ll hopefully get out of this funk and have some big games coming up.

  • Mark

    I don’t know the answer but I do know that we love Stu and appreciate everything that he does and has done and he needs to stay strong and keep on shooting! Go Stu and Go Blue!

  • Wayman Britt

    The video was very telling.  He is shooting to far out.  It’s okay for a few 25 footers over a course of a month, but not the number he is shooting.

    I agree that struggling with confidence is hard when you are in a slump.  I hope in the next couple of games he gets a layup or makes a 2 before he starts launching a 3.  Hitting an easy 2 first, may loosen him up.

  • Tom, Too

    Chris Paul to Lakers….just got tougher for Darius Morris.

  • SamGoBlue

    All I can say is that I hope Stu continues to shoot, cause he absolutely needs to. I think the most encouraging thing about the video is that most of his shots rim out or are back-heel, which shows that he is somewhat unlucky right now. Beilein will tell you back heel generally means the player is on target and taking good shots, but just a little strong on them. 

  • Detroitbry2


  • maxwell’s demon

    People love to complain about Stu but find me someone else on the team that should take his minutes. Vogrich? Completely one-dimensional (and that dimension is currently missing), can’t guard a quick guard, and not a ball handler. Eso? Maybe a bit more reasonable, we’ll see with time. But he does not look at all comfortable handling the ball, his shooting sample size tells us nothing, and undetermined on d. Stu on the other hand is easily our second best ball handler, generally doesn’t turn the ball over, solid defender and is at least capable of getting hot from 3. All that said, I don’t get the shot selection. It’s like Beilein encourages it.

    • Kenny

      First of all, I don’t see anyone complaining Stu want to take his minutes away. We simply want him to play better, to conform to what he is capable of. my personal diagnosis: he is trying to do too much by himself. 
      Second, we already see his minutes reduced over the course of the season. Burke plays a lot of minutes at 1, Novak at 2, Eso goes in at either 1 or 2. Partly because our depth at 4-5 has dramatically improved this season. 
      Third, not saying that Vogrich should get more minutes, at least his shoot selections are not bad, he cuts well, he rebounds well, and he doesn’t waste opportunities. He plays within his bound, and Stu has not this season.
      Fourth, let me bring out Novak. Who is a also senior and is passionate about basketball like nobody else, and every wolverine fans loves him. He could be complete quiet in some games but I hardly hear anyone here saying Novak had a bad game. He might only take a couple of shots, or only pull down a few rebounds, but he still there does all a little things to let his teammates make the play.  He is not a slasher but he can take a few step and make a mid-range jumper now, and he cuts the basket more often. Novak plays hard but he let the game come to him. Stu is also playing hard but he is not letting the game come to him.