Call the shot doctor: Can Pelicans coach Fred Vinson fix Dyson Daniels’ form and turn him into the steal of the 2022 NBA Draft?

How do you teach a prospect to shoot? It’s the ultimate swing skill for most players, and every team is racking its brain trying to solve that problem.

The Pelicans are one of the few that may have found a solution. But there is only one Fred Vinson, who is entering his 13th season for the team as an assistant coach and the unofficial best shooting instructor in the league.

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Vinson’s biggest success story lies with Lonzo Ball. When Ball first entered the league, his form looked awkward enough to come out of a Nathan Fielder HBO special. His shot started from the left side of his body, came across his face, obscured his vision of the hoop and was eventually released from the right side.

Ball completely transformed his shot under Vinson, developing technical textbook. In his two Lakers seasons before meeting Vinson, Ball connected on just 31.5 percent of his 3-pointers. In his two Pelicans seasons, he hit 37.6 percent of his attempts from 3-point range.

And just last season with the Bulls, he shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc, the fifth-highest mark in the league.

“I came in, and my shot wasn’t working,” Ball told The Athletic’s Will Guillory back in 2021. “Pretty much all the credit goes to Fred. He got with me when I first came here — the first week — and we ‘ve just been grinding ever since. You can see the work paying off.”

Ball may be the most famous player on Vinson’s list, but NBA veteran Quincy Pondexter was Vinson’s first guinea pig over a decade ago. The two learned how to fix shots together, and Pondexter has taken those lessons into his own coaching career as an assistant at the University of Washington.

“Coming into the league, I wasn’t a good shooter at all,” Pondexter said. “Fred Vinson’s job was basically to help me get a jump shot. It was his first real NBA job on the bench. He helped me change my shot and essentially helped me have a career in the NBA for as long as I did.”

Since working with Pondexter, Vinson has helped Ball, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones take massive strides as 3-point shooters.

Vinson’s next project? Dyson Daniels.

Player 3PT% Pre-Vinson 3PT% Post Vinson
Quincy Pondexter 32.7% (college) 35.6%
Tyreke Evans 27.6% 34.7%
Lonzo-Ball 31.5% 38.7%
Brandon Ingram 32.9% 37.3%
Herb Jones 28.8% (college) 33.7%
Dyson Daniels 30.0% (G League) ?

Daniels’ poor shooting was the biggest knock on him coming into the 2022 NBA Draft. His G League numbers were rough: 30 percent from 3-point range and 53.3 percent from the free throw line. Those shooting concerns dropped him down to No. 8 on the draft board.

Vinson is confident that he can work his same magic on Daniels, transforming one of his biggest weaknesses into a strength. If that were to happen, then Daniels, already a great passer and defender, could become the biggest steal of his class.

“He has the ability to become an above-average 3-point shooter,” Vinson said. “His temperament reminds me a lot of Lonzo Ball — a mature, calm temperament and focus. Once we’re able to ramp up and prepare for the season, all that time we’re going to spend together, you’re going to see results.”

SCOUTING REPORT: Breaking down Daniels’ biggest strengths, weaknesses

Vinson played briefly in the NBA and overseas for much of his career. He empathizes with the stresses of being a high-level player. Daniels calls him “one of the guys” and a great communicator.

But Vinson can also take somewhat of a drill sergeant approach, tearing down shots before building them back up.

“We broke down my shot like I was just dropped onto the planet and learned how to play basketball for the first time,” Pondexter said. “And we never, never, never skipped steps.

“We started right under the basket, and I’d use one hand. He correctly got my hand in place, little details like which finger was on which spot on the ball. I didn’t get beyond 10 feet from the basket, and I didn’t use my second hand, my guide hand, for the whole first month.”

Vinson is using those same lessons on Daniels.

“His approach is that we start right at the basket,” Daniels said. “Do the same thing, day in, day out. One-hand shooting, every time. We start close and slowly move out. It’s very repetitive, but you get used to it.

“When I first got there, we were probably doing 500 shots just around the rim, five feet. We’d extend to the free throw line, one-handed. Total of maybe 700 shots per day.”

Once the basics are hammered down, Vinson concentrates on the tiniest of details. He’s like a watchmaker, fixing even the slightest of rough edges to get all of the mechanics running smoothly.

Vinson sets his hand by his eye and flicks his wrist to demonstrate one of the most important concepts for shooters, the set point of a shot. It’s the transition point where the ball goes from moving up your body to forward, and it’s where he automatically sees the most glaring weakness in Daniels’ shot.

“With the length of his arms, you want to try to start [Daniels’] set point a little higher,” Vinson said. “Preferably outside his right eye, out in front of him. What he’ll do is start the ball low and bring it back. We don’t want that. We want his energy going forward.”

Daniels was only 16 years old when he started receiving professional instruction on his shot at the NBA Global Academy in Australia. But he’s never come across any coach that demands Vinson’s type of precision.

“I mean, this guy is a whole other level above with specific details,” Daniels said. “He sees everything in my shot. You need to get your hips through in this style, you need to have your feet this much apart, the ball this much above your eye, to the right side here.

“Every detail, I’m learning slowly and improving every day. Certain details take a while to get used to, but he’s really, really good for me.”

Vinson believes that anyone can become a good shooter, as long as they possess certain traits. The first is a good work ethic. Next is a love of shooting. But the most important? Learning how to fail.

“[It requires] a lot of mental toughness, because these guys have had so much success,” Vinson said. “Sometimes, when you struggle as you’re rebuilding, you have to be OK with failure.”

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With Chip Engelland’s unexpected departure from the Spurs during the offseason — Vinson says he has always looked up to Engelland — Vinson is the runaway favorite for the best shooting coach working in the league today. Before the Pelicans drafted him, Daniels had already heard about Vinson’s reputation during workouts with his fellow prospects.

The only shred of doubt in his mind regarding Vinson is the shooting coach’s own shot.

“I haven’t seen much,” Dyson said, laughing. “I’ve seen him get a few up. He might be trying to hide it until later.”

Vinson’s newest student may want to take a lesson from his oldest one.

“I’m able to teach guys how to shoot the ball halfway as good as he does,” Pondexter said, “because Freddie is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.”

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