Sergei Chikalkin On The Role Of Perimeter Shooting In The Modern Game

VTB-League.com presents a brand-new Expert Opinion, our blog featuring the sport's top minds and their thoughts on the latest developments in the VTB United League.

One of Russian basketball's greatest shooters, former Ural-Great and national team star Sergei Chikalkin joins Expert Opinion to discuss the growing role of perimeter shooting in the modern game and the impact one shot can have on the outcome.

On the past and present: Snipers have always played a huge role in basketball given their shooting often affect the final outcome. I follow the VTB United League and get to watch real pros at work. Of course, it's mostly foreign players: for example, the terrific Keith Langford of UNICS. He's stronger and quicker than everyone else.

The quality of perimeter shooting has improved dramatically since I played. Of course, that's not surprising. After all, when I played nearly everyone at those positions was home grown.

Defense is another big difference between the past and present. During my career, we didn't play such suffocating defense. On most teams, there was a clear division of roles on the court. A sniper's primary responsibility was offense. The offense revolved around him and his teammates looked to get him the ball, while on defense he got to relax a little. A sniper could defend the opponent's weakest player and the head coach forgave him if he made the occasional mistake.

These days, no one can get away with coasting on defense. If you don't give 100% on both ends of the court, you'll get benched. Both the quality and the speed of the game have improved. Guys have more endurance and are more athletic. Basketball is more dynamic and teams spend less than half the shot clock on a possession.

On being more versatile: The sniper's role on offense hasn't changed among the VTB United League's top four teams, but now the expectations are much higher on defense. You can't play at an elite level if you can't defend. In order to be successful in the modern game, you need all 10 players to be a threat from outside, defend well and be true pros.

Versatility is the key to modern basketball. Earlier, snipers only thought about putting the ball in the basket. Now we see that 2's and 3's sometimes run the offense, essentially functioning as back-up point guards. That's good. Swingmen should be able to move the ball on offense, battle for a rebound, take the ball out and hustle back on defense. One-dimensional players end up on the bench more often than not.

The evolution of the sniper is similar to the evolution in the frontcourt, as described earlier on this blog by Vitaly Nosov. In recent years, we've begun to see point guards that can score as well as a true sniper. Each team and head coach needs to make decisions based on the personnel at their disposal. If you've got a strong point guard who runs the offense and can shoot the '3', you need to use it. 

On my personal experience: As far as my career goes, I immediately think back to the years spent at Ural-Great. There was a lot of pressure on me then. I hardly ever came out of the game and was expected to score a lot of points. My scoring had a direct impact on our team's success under head coach Sergei Belov. During the 2000-01 season, there were a lot of times when I got to decide games with my shot. I scored more than 30 in several outings, including at the final of the Northern European Basketball League (NEBL), when I got 38 in the win over Zalgiris. That year, we were Russian champions , won the NEBL and I got named the top player in Russia. It was an incredible season! 

On the league's stars: I've noticed several players while watching VTB United League games. Above all, two guards: Milos Teodosic and Keith Langford. I especially like how Kazan's sniper plays on the court. He's been around for a while and doesn't possess any amazing physical gifts. I watched the Khimki - UNICS game last Sunday and was very impressed. Langford scored 38, including 24 in the opening period! He's really quick, understands the game extremely well and can shoot. Keith has an outsized impact on Kazan's performance and answers for the team's results.

Sergei Chikalkin,
ex-Ural Great and Russian national team guard