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. 

Anthony Davis scores 37 as it was all too easy for Lakers in blowout win

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It was all too easy for the Lakers.

Too easy for them to get out in transition, or even run on made baskets and beat Denver down the court.

Too easy for Anthony Davis to rack up 37 points.

Too easy for an attacking Lakers team to get key Nuggets players — including Nikola Jokic — in foul trouble.

Too easy for the Lakers’ defense to bottle up the Nuggets guards in the pick-and-roll, never letting Denver’s offense get on track after the first quarter.

And the “too easy” list goes on and on. It resulted in a 126-114 Lakers’ win where the Lakers led by 27 at one point and never felt truly threatened in the second half. The Lakers now lead the Western Conference Finals 1-0 with Game 2 on Sunday.

“Even in that first quarter, we didn’t guard anybody… Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone said, trying to target his team’s troubles in Game 1. “There was little defense.”

Add to that this Laker offense is relentless and will punish mismatches and mistakes in a way that other Staples Center team rarely did. Denver lear

After an even first quarter, what changed was that the Lakers started locking down on defense — the Nuggets had seven second-quarter turnovers, which led to the Lakers getting out in transition on plays like this.

But the Lakers were running on everything, including made shots, and beating Denver down the court for buckets.

Denver scored 41 points over the second and third quarters combined, with an 88 offensive rating. Part of the frustration from the Nuggets was the foul calls, which they thought bent toward the Lakers, but also Los Angels was the more aggressive team. The Lakers simply outhustled the Nuggets down the court time after time.

L.A. went on a 19-3 run from the end of the first half to early in the second, never looking back from there. Los Angeles was led by the 37 from Davis, while LeBron James had 15 points and 12 assists. As a team, the Lakers were 11-of-26 from three (42.3%).

Denver had 21 points each from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and both played far fewer minutes than normal due to foul trouble. Michael Porter Jr. had 14, and the game was such a blowout that by the end Bol Bol was in and had a bucket.

Denver needs to consider this a game spent to learn more about their opponent and how they will have to play the rest of the series. Not exactly a game to flush completely, but it’s pretty close.

The Lakers need to remember that Denver has come back twice in playoff series already, the Nuggets learn from their mistakes and improve. Things are not always going to be this easy.

But the Lakers could not have asked for a better start.

Watch the Alex Caruso to LeBron James alley-oop

LeBron Caruso
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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One of the keys to Denver having a shot in the Western Conference Finals: Keep the Lakers out of transition.

That did not go so well to start.

Denver had seven second-quarter turnovers, which allowed the Lakers to get out an run and the result was this highlight, Alex Caruso to LeBron James for the monster alley-oop.

The Lakers added more points per 100 possessions in transition than any other team in the league, and the Lakers have started a higher percentage of their offense in transition than any other team in the playoffs (16.5% of their plays start that way, stats via Cleaning the Glass). Denver has improved halfcourt defense this postseason, but their transition defense has struggled in the playoffs. That is potentially a bad combo for the Nuggets.

 

Report: Heat tried to trade Goran Dragic away in Jimmy Butler deal

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The Miami Heat are not in control of the Eastern Conference Finals — just two wins from the NBA Finals — without the combination of Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic. They are the shot creators, the two penetrating into the paint, breaking down the Celtics’ defense, then kicking out to shooters. Butler is an All-NBA player, and Dragic is playing like the All-NBA player he was six years ago.

That pairing almost never happened.

Michael Lee at the Athletic told the story.

What’s hilarious about the Dragic-Butler partnership – a bromance that has found them bonding in the bubble over bottles of Michelob Ultras, cups of Big Head coffee, and singing the “Bad Boys” theme song from “Cops” – is it nearly didn’t happen. The initial three-team trade [Heat president Pat] Riley facilitated to get Butler involved sending Dragic to Dallas. Dragic would’ve teamed up with his Slovenian little homie, Luka Doncic, but would’ve said farewell to what he intended to do with the Heat.

The Mavericks had no interest in taking on Dragic – a 30-something hobbling on a surgically-repaired knee whose best years were way in the rearview – so the Heat had to get more creative, while remaining stuck with seemingly damaged goods. Again, nothing went according to plan.

We knew this at the time, consider this a reminder. Also, don’t blame Dallas on this one. Dragic played 36 games last season, had knee issues, and had looked like a shell of the All-NBA player he used to be, and on top of it he was getting paid $19.2 million. There were not a lot of teams looking to get in the Dragic business before this season started.

Instead, Dragic stayed, got healthy, accepted a sixth-man role (until the playoffs, before that Kendrick Nunn started and Dragic was the change of pace off the bench), and found his stride.

In the bubble, Dragic has taken off as the second scoring/shot-creating option in the Heat offense. Erik Spoelstra, as he does, has put Dragic in positions to succeed.

And, after these playoffs, get paid this offseason when Dragic is a free agent.

Brad Stevens hosts late night meeting with Smart, Brown, Celtics’ leadership

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A frustrated Marcus Smart yelled and vented at teammates after Boston’s come-from-ahead loss to Miami to go down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jaylen Brown reportedly snapped back that the team needed to stick together and not just point fingers. Things reportedly were thrown around in the Celtics’ locker room.

Boston coach Brad Stevens knew he had to get everyone back on the same page before Game 3 on Saturday, so he had Smart, Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Kemba Walker meet and talk through their issues, reported Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It was a smart move by Stevens, and it apparently worked. The Celtics have moved on from the incident, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

But one source within the bubble told NBC Sports Boston that the emotions of Thursday night are “water under the bridge now” as the team prepares for a must-win Game 3 on Saturday.

The Celtics need to match the Heat’s “do whatever it takes to win” intensity on Saturday. It would be a help if Gordon Hayward plays, which appears possible (he is officially listed as questionable but seems to be moving toward playing.

Everything that happened before to Boston needs to be a lesson on what it takes to win at the highest level. Miami is confident and rolling, plus they have the relentless Jimmy Butler in their corner.

One of the four players in Stevens’ room Thursday night — Boston’s leaders — has to be the one to step up and match that intensity. If not, the Celtics will be watching the Finals from home like the rest of us.