Who has the best mid-range game in the NBA?

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Yes, the midrange game is dying. This much is known. However, there’s also a reason why the midrange game is dying. As players get more athletic and comfortable with the three-point shot, the midrange game becomes a worse and worse option. According to Hoopdata.com, shots taken from 10-23 feet are easily the least efficient shots in the league. If players are capable of getting to the rim or getting a good look from deep, there’s not a great reason to settle for a jumper that’s only worth two points. 

However, there are some guys who are still fun to watch go to work from midrange, and can definitely hurt an opposing team with a steady diet of 15-20 footers over the course of a game. Here’s my list of the best midrange shooters currently in the NBA, in no particular order:
1. Steve Nash:

One of the best pure shooters ever to play the game, even though it’s never flashy. Nash has a picture-perfect stroke with almost no moving parts, and will put it straight through the net if he’s given room to set his feet. What sets Nash apart from most great shooters is how good Nash is at setting himself up using his dribble. On the perimeter, Nash uses the screen, waits for the defender to go under, and pulls up from the open spot to knock it down. Closer to the basket, Nash has that goofy array of step-backs, runners, fadeaways, and one-footed jumpers, all of which give him a great look at the basket. The result is that Nash hits 47% of his jumpers from 16-23 feet, and a freakishly high 59% of his shots from the 10-15 foot range. 
2. Kobe Bryant

Nobody is better at getting a decent look at the basket anywhere, at any time. He can be falling into the third row, and Bryant will still manage to get his shoulders squared and his elbow tucked in perfectly. Bryant isn’t as methodical about setting up his midrange shot as some of the other guys on this list because he doesn’t need to be — he can rise up from seemingly any spot on the floor, against any coverage, and fire a shot with a good chance of going in. Defenses have to stick to him on every curl, catch, and jab-step, and sometimes that doesn’t even do much good. And of course, there’s nobody you’d rather have shooting a midrange jumper with the game on the line. Kobe makes half of his shots from 10-15 feet, and nobody in the NBA makes more shots per game from that range. 
3. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk is perhaps best known as a 7-footer who can stroke threes, but in games he’s most comfortable using his size and shooting ability in tandem to stroke deep jumpers over opponents to small to contest them. Dirk’s got a herky-jerky set of moves and jab steps from the high post and a bit of an unorthodox stroke, but really he doesn’t need much space to fire his signature fadeaway, which he makes quite often. Dirk makes a league-leading four shots from 16-23 feet a game, and is a 47% shooter from that range.
4. Ray Allen

Best known as one of the most prolific three-point snipers in NBA history, Allen has remained productive despite shooting a career-low 35% from deep because of the improvements in his midrange game. Allen has become much better in the pull-up game, taking one or two hard dribbles on a drive and then using his gorgeous, gorgeous stroke to knock in a slightly off-balance shot. Allen makes a respectable 45% of his shots from 16-23 feet, but is shooting a Nash-like 58.3% from the 10-15 foot range, up from 47.0% last season and 31.0% the season before. One of the best pure shooters in league history just keeps learning new tricks. 
5. Derrick Rose

If Chris Paul were healthy, it would probably be his name on this list. Instead, it’s Rose, who like Paul uses his blistering speed to set himself up with room for the pull-up jumper. Rose makes nearly half of his jumpers from the 10-15 foot range, where defenders have to back up more than they’d like to because of Rose’s ability to take it to the rack. Rose also makes 3 shots from the 16-23 foot range per game, but that’s a product of Rose taking a whole lot of them; only Nowitzki takes more shots from that range. 
Well, that’s my list. Apologies to Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, and Rip Hamilton, who are talented scorers and clearly comfortable shooting from mid-range, but don’t make those shots at a particularly high percentage. Kevin Durant came within an inch of the list, but his 36% shooting from 16-23 feet kept him off. He’s a beast from 10-15 feet, though. Well, let me know what you think. 

Byron Scott says he wants to coach again, should have played his veterans even more

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott watches the action against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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Deposed Lakers’ coach Byron Scott did a media tour on Thursday — radio interviews up and down the dial, plus speaking to some members of the Los Angeles media.

It was a tour d’ force of all the things that had Lakers’ fans shaking their heads all season long. Take this quote given to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“If I knew this was coming, I would have played Lou [Williams], Brandon [Bass] and guys like that a whole lot more,” Scott said, referring to his veterans in an interview with this newspaper. “They gave me the best chance to win.”

He didn’t know his job was in danger? That would make one.

Scott was asked to do two contradictory things as Lakers coach: Put Kobe Bryant in the spotlight his final couple seasons while also developing the Lakers’ young talent. That was never going to lead to many wins — and Lakers’ brass understood that.

However, if your team is one of the two worst defensive teams in the league in consecutive years, that’s also not all about the roster. That’s about not getting buy-in from the players and effort to play whatever system he put in place. These Lakers teams didn’t hustle for Scott.

Scott admitted he was old school, but told Rich Eisen on the Rich Eisen Show (hat tip Eye on Basketball) that so is Gregg Popovich, and he’s doing just fine. Which shows a lack of understanding of the nuance with which Popovich works. Unlike the coach with a touch for praise at the right time in San Antonio, Scott’s old-school, tough-love ways turned off the young Lakers — it wasn’t just having them come off the bench, it was what was seen by the young players as a lack of communication as to why. A lack of coaching them up.

But Scott took credit on ESPN’s “The Jump” for the improved play and development of D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle last season. He said he needed to rein in Russell’s ego and get him to be professional, and he said his plan “worked.” Whether Russell’s development happened because of or in spite of Scott depends on who you ask, but the young potential star’s relationship with his coach was not good. That’s one thing Luke Walton was brought in to change.

Scott said multiple times over the course of the day he wants to coach again. His last two jobs — Cleveland post LeBron and with the Lakers — were about developing young talent and none of those five teams finished better than 12 games under .500. I’d say that would damage future job prospects, but this is the NBA so who knows. He may get another chance in a few years.

Erik Spoelstra starts to lose it on Luol Deng inbounds attempt (VIDEO)

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There were just 20.7 seconds left in overtime and the Miami Heat were down six — they needed a quick bucket.

Luol Deng was inbounding the ball near halfcourt and was looking for a way to get the ball deep down by the basket for a quick bucket — he seemed willing to take a risk rather than make the safe play to a wide open Josh Richardson in the backcourt.

After a couple of seconds of watching this, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra almost loses it on Deng, and the pass goes to Richardson. Enjoy the video.

Toronto hung on and won the game, evening the series at 1-1 headed back to Miami.

How crazy will summer free agent market be? How about reported $50 million for Festus Ezeli.

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli, left, reacts after a dunk past Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 106-94. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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Festus Ezeli averaged 7 points and 5.6 rebounds a game in just under 17 minutes a night in the 46 games he played last season, having missed time to have he knee scoped (he missed the entire 2013-14 season with surgery on that same knee). He’s averaged less than nine minutes per game in the playoffs, but played a key role defending the paint in the Warriors Game 2 win against the Trail Blazers.

What does that make him worth as a restricted free agent this summer?

Likely three years, $50 million a source told Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.

According to several league executives, that is likely to be what it takes to land Warriors restricted free agent center Festus Ezeli this summer. “Obviously there are health issues you’re worried about,” one general manager told Sporting News. “So I don’t think you’d want to go beyond three years. But he still has a lot of upside and he can get better in a bigger role.”

That’s $16.6 million a season, on average. The crazy number is market forces coming together on a couple of fronts. First, is that the market itself will be flooded with cash as the new television deal money kicks in and the salary cap spikes by $22 million up to an estimated (by the league) $92 million next season. Around two-thirds of the teams in the league will have the cap space for a max player, but there are not near that many players of that quality on the market. Meaning some guys are going to get over paid because teams will be looking to spend.

Second, big men in the NBA get overpaid. Always has been. Especially rim-protecting bigs right now, something needed to counter some of the impacts of small ball slashers in the half court. It’s simple supply and demand — if you want a rotation level guard in free agency you have plenty of options, but if you want an athletic 7-footer there are just a few of those around.

Still, who is going to pay $50 million for Ezeli? Maybe the Lakers.

The Lakers, a source said, will have interest in Ezeli, seeing his size and rim-protecting defense as an ideal complement to forward Julius Randle. L.A., of course, just hired Warriors assistant Luke Walton to be its coach. Ezeli had the best months of his career in November and December, with Walton filling in while Kerr recovered from back surgery, and before Ezeli’s knee injury.

The Warriors have the right to match any offer, Ezeli is a restricted free agent. Whether they would match something in the $50 million ballpark for Ezeli will be a factor of other moves they make this summer — if the Kevin Durant whispers are true the Warriors then can’t afford Ezeli, and what the team plans to do with Andrew Bogut long term.

Still, $50 million for Ezeli.

It’s going to be one wild summer.

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.