Omri Casspi taking shooting efficiency to new heights

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More impressive than Toyota’s newest hybrid is Omri Casspi’s conservation of jump shots. The sixth-year forward has almost completely ditched his outside offense in favor of full-throttled drives through the lane.

“I feel like when I get into the paint I can create good stuff for others and for myself, and get to the line,” Casspi told Cowbell Kingdom on Saturday. “In the system we play, I need to figure out when to shoot or when to penetrate, do a better job at that, my shot selection. Sometimes I do have an open shot and I still prefer to penetrate, but this is something I work on, watch a lot of tape, work on my shot and being ready to shoot, because there’s certain situations I get an open shot and I’m trying to create something else.”

Casspi’s erratic shooting before this season had him facing the way of the Hummer (which went out of business in 2010). The Sacramento Kings 2009 first rounder-turned-journeyman started launching 3’s at an alarming pace following his rookie year, with triples annually consuming more than 40 percent of his total shot attempts.

In the 2012-13 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, 47.5 percent of Casspi’s attempts from the floor were 3-pointers, coincidentally the same year he had his lowest field-goal percentage (39.4). The 6-foot-9, 225-pound wing was a long range specialist without the deadeye aim (career 35 percent from behind the arc), which spelled uncertainty for his NBA future.

The Kings signed Casspi this offseason with the intention of adding a stretch-four at the end of the bench, not a rotation bruiser. The forward has shot 76.3 percent of his field goals within 10 feet of the hoop, easily on pace for a season best, while attempting only eight 3’s (making one) in 10 appearances. Casspi has abandoned his midrange game as well, which was a staple as a rookie.

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The result of Casspi’s unrelenting will to drive and lead the break is a career-high 52.6 shooting percentage from the floor. Casspi’s close proximity to the basket has also attributed to career-best paces of 1.8 offensive rebounds and 1.4 assists per 36 minutes.

Casspi attributed the change in offensive style partly to the coaching staff, which in turn enforced his own mindset entering training camp.

“Stay in attack mode,” Casspi said of his newfound mindset.  “Create, be aggressive. Again, in the paint if somebody stops you, find the open guy. When we’re at best, we move the ball, we share the ball. Extra, extra passes. Not settling for a good shot, but a great shot. And obviously tonight (Saturday), playing against San Antonio, this is something they emphasize all the time. The more we do it, the more everybody is going to fit into that system that coach Malone wants us in.”

But not everyone can maneuver in a crowded NBA paint and live to tell the tale. Casspi needed to get stronger to absorb the punishment of collapsing defenses, and he has the Kings training staff to thank for helping him do that.

“Obviously we follow our strength and conditioning program. In the league, most teams have a mandatory 10 lifts-a-month (regimen). Most of the work we do during the season is maintaining what you got, stability, strength, and flexibility which is the most important thing during the season.”

And that’s how drivers are born. While no one would get mad if Casspi shot a few more 3’s, the 26-year-old is finally squeezing the most out of his length and athleticism. Combined with his stout man defense, the Kings now have a very efficient tool at their disposal.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.