The Utah Jazz take the most 3-pointers in the NBA, and through the first 45 games of the season they hit those shots at the second-best rate in the league. It’s not as if the Jazz have one or two players that are lighting teams up from deep. Beyond the center position, the entire Jazz rotation is lethal from 3-point range.
Since the Jazz have been so efficient on such a high-volume of 3-point shots, it is pretty glaring when there are a couple of players going through a slump, and that’s been the case with Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson.
“This is probably the worst stretch of my career shooting the ball,” Bogdanovic said recently. “I’m kind of making bad decisions, when to shoot and when to kind of calm down and wait for the shot to come to me.”
Before the All-Star break, Bogdanovic was shooting 40.5% from 3. In the six games that followed the All-Star break, Bogdanovic shot just 16.1% from deep. Clarkson was hitting 37% of his long-range shots before the break and in the eight games after the break — a stretch that included nights when Clarkson went 1-of-8 and then 1-of-11 from 3 — he shot just 27.9%.
Both Bogdanovic and Clarkson have very different personalities and as such, have handled their slumps differently.
Clarkson is all around a little more lighthearted about everything and has made jokes at his own expense about not shooting well. After hitting just 1-of-11 from deep against Brooklyn on March 24, Clarkson sent out a tweet congratulating his teammates on the victory and threw in a little self-deprecating humor.
“Great team win,” Clarkson said. “Keep growing, keep getting better, laying brick by brick. I think I took that literally tonight.”
Bogdanovic, described by Jazz coach Quin Snyder as a perfectionist, on the other hand, is his own worst critic.
“He’s such a good player, and such a good shooter that I think the message is just keep being who you are and keep attacking and keep shooting,” Snyder said. “That said ... it hurts him to miss, and sometimes you internalize that to a point that it makes it harder. So, whatever it is that you can say consciously at a given time, sometimes you’ve just got to work through it.”
The reality is that even the very best of shooters throughout the history of the league go through slumps. Nobody is perfect.
In the 1997-98 season, Reggie Miller’s most efficient shooting season of his career, he went into a five-game slump and shot just 6-of-21 (28.6%).
Stephen Curry, whose percentages rarely dip below the 40% mark, had a seven-game stretch in 2015 where he shot 32% from 3, but he continued to shoot and finished that season 45.4% from 3-point range and went on to win an NBA title. In the following season, in which Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a second-straight finals appearance, he went through another seven-game slump where his 3-point percentage dipped below 30%.
At times, Clarkson’s misses can seem more egregious than Bogdanovic’s because Clarkson is tied with Donovan Mitchell for the most 3-point attempts taken per game at 8.6. Bogdanovic tends to be more conservative, taking just 6.3 3-pointers per game. Just as with their shooting approach, both players have a different approach to trying to break themselves out of the slump.
In addition to putting up shots, Bogdanovic said that he is watching games from the past, ones that he shot well in just to see his movement and to see the ball go through the net.
“I hope that I’m going to start to play better,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I have to hit a shot, just to be patient and calm and on the court ... I’m fighting with myself.”
Bogdanovic recognizes that he is playing differently and that he is trying to do things that are out of the norm. He’s driving when he should be shooting or vice versa, he’s taking shots that he normally wouldn’t. So he wants to be more deliberate with his actions, think things through a little bit more, be more aggressive on drives so that he can get some easy baskets early on in the hope that it will open him up and give him some rhythm.
Clarkson, who comes off as one of the more free-flowing players on the Jazz roster, is more cerebral than some would think, and when he finds himself in a slump, he realizes that he is overthinking and overanalyzing things too much.
“I’m big on watching film and doing stuff like that, and I can fall into sometimes just thinking a little bit too much about what the reads are and what’s going on in the flow of the game, and I kind of lose myself in that,” Clarkson said. “I’ve just got to keep continuing to play free, take the shots that are there.”
Both players mentioned putting energy into the other parts of the game like defense, rebounding and making hustle plays, and finding ways to impact the team in a positive way while they aren’t shooting particularly well. But their teammates and Snyder aren’t worried about Bogdanovic or Clarkson.
“You don’t ever want to see someone lose confidence. That’s always something that we try to make sure and instill. ... When you’ve seen someone shoot the ball as well, not just over the course of the season but over years, that’s something that you need to keep in the front of your mind and you want that player to feel that way, too.” — Quin Snyder
There is a point when a shooting slump would start to become concerning and that’s not when the fanbase starts to worry or the slump goes beyond a certain number of games. If a player starts to noticeably lose confidence and stop taking the shots, that’s when there would be a little more intervention.
“You don’t ever want to see someone lose confidence,” Snyder said. “That’s always something that we try to make sure and instill. ... When you’ve seen someone shoot the ball as well, not just over the course of the season but over years, that’s something that you need to keep in the front of your mind and you want that player to feel that way, too.”
Staying confident and working through a slump is always easier said than done, and with the limited practice and gym time this season, it’s not really a surprise that a slump could last a little longer than normal.
Bogdanovic and Clarkson both know that this type of rough stretch just comes with the territory of being a basketball player, and they haven’t gotten to the point of losing confidence in their games.
“It’s going to happen over a season where you go through a little slump, every player is going to do it,” Clarkson said. “You’re going to have a few bad games here and there, but you’ve just got to keep going, stay focused on what you do, keep taking shots.”