I had a revelation in 2004 when I was out shooting for fun at a neighbor's basket. The partial thought that came into my head was that "An Object in Motion tends to stay in motion ..." This is an old law of physics we all learn in high school and which came out of the blue these decades later. When I Googled the phrase "Object in motion..." I discovered it's called "Newton's First Law of Motion" and its nickname is "The Law of Inertia." The basketball corollary I'd like to add is, "A basketball in motion AND IN LINE WITH A BASKET tends to stay in motion AND IN LINE until acted upon by an outside or unbalanced force."
The point is that the longer and stronger the ball is in motion and in line, the more accurate will be your shooting. The concepts of momentum and inertia explain that. One way to experience this law is to shoot early in the jumping motion (or down-up motion of a free throw or set shot) and see what happens. Most great shooters I've seen shoot on the way up, very early in the body/leg motion. If you hesitate, then you have to re-start the motion from where you stopped or slowed it down (the Set Point usually), and accuracy is more difficult.
PLAY WITH THIS AT A WALL OR WITH A FRIEND
Ideally at a wall that's free from wires, overhangs, doors, windows, etc., shoot in different ways and see what works best. Pick a spot on the wall so you can get a feel for accuracy. Also, have the Set Point in line with the eye, either below the eyes for younger players, or above the eyes for stronger players, and let's assume you're shooting on the way up.
Now bring the ball up in different ways to the Set Point and shoot. Bring it up off line from the right, like up in line with the ear or shoulder, then get it to the Set Point and shoot. Notice how you have to "create" accurate direction from the Set Point and beyond. Now bring it up the left side to the S/P and shoot, noticing the same thing. Now bring it up in line with the shooting eye for as long as possible and shoot. Notice if your accuracy is greater, if it isn't easier to hit the target line.
NOW HESITATE TO SHOOT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS
Now, instead of shooting on the way up, bring the ball to the S/P and HESITATE before shooting and see what happens. Even if you bring the ball up in alignment with eye and basket, notice that you have to CREATE accuracy FROM the Set Point. The momentum, the inertia, gained from shooting in one motion, from the legs and arm action, is lost. You have to start over, and it's easier to push or pull or throw the ball off line.
IT'S NATURAL TO WANT TO DIP THE BALL
If you catch the ball in the general area of the Set Point, it's a natural thing, in my opinion, to want to "dip" the ball down and back up. This is the instinctive way our bodies have to get the object in motion and in line. Shoot some shots from the S/P without dipping and see how your accuracy and consistency are. I'll bet you'll feel kind of lost as far as direction. Sure, you can do this perfectly some of the time, but it's very easy to lose connection with the target. Then shoot again on the way up and see what that feels like and what the result is.
These exercises will teach you the things that matter, and alignment early and long and catching and using the leg muscles early along with any arm dipping will give you superior accuracy and consistency in my book.
Tom Nordland is a shooting expert and coach from California and Minnesota. His videos, coaching and writings are inspiring a Renaissance (a rebirth, a revival) in shooting around the world as players and coaches are taught the things that really matter in shooting. A great shooter as a youth, Tom was given a gift of seeing shooting like few have ever seen it. He sees the essence of great shooting and how to get there. The good news is that its very simple. The few great shooters of today and yesterday mastered simple things, not complicated motions. Improved shooting is now possible for everybody in the game, and mastery is available to those who sincerely dedicate themselves to it. Read of his background and his articles and newsletters, and to view the remarkable endorsements and testimonials for this approach to shooting.