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

2 Comments

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. 

LeBron James set to make debut for Lakers at Trail Blazers tonight

Getty Images
1 Comment

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — It’s not going to be just a game when the Los Angeles Lakers invade Moda Center Thursday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers in the regular-season opener for both teams.

It will be a happening.

It’s the first game in the splendid 16-year NBA career of LeBron James that the future Hall of Famer will be wearing the uniform of a Western Conference club — the Lakers, with whom he signed a free-agent contract during the offseason.

Members of the national media and a TNT audience will be watching along with a full house at the 20,000-seat Moda Center. And James has caught the fever.

“The season is here,” James told reporters after a recent practice. “First of 82 (regular-season games). It will be fun.”

The basketball world is intrigued to find out how well the 33-year-old James will mesh with his mostly younger teammates, and how much he can help them improve on their 35-47 record of a year ago. Thursday at Moda Center is the first step, but Lakers coach Luke Walton isn’t taking it as a giant leap for mankind all in one swoop.

“We’ve got four years,” said Walton, referring to James’ contract, which calls for three years guaranteed and a player option for a fourth. “We want to make sure we’re not only playing our best come the end of the season, but that he is fresh. It’s a goal for us, and it’s not a one-year journey.”

James, who led the NBA with 36.9 minutes played per game in 2017-18, likely won’t match that average this season. Even so, he figures to be on the court a lot Thursday night.

“If my body is feeling good, then I’m out there,” James said. “If my body is not able to perform at the level I would like to play for my teammates, then I won’t.”

The Lakers could have drawn an easier first opponent that the Trail Blazers, against whom the Lakers have had no success in recent years. Portland holds a 15-game win streak in the series dating to March 2014, and has won seven in a row at Moda Center.

The Blazers mostly stood pat after going 49-33 and earning the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs a year ago, then getting swept in four games by New Orleans in the first round. Portland added a pair of low-cost free agent guards, Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, to bolster its perimeter shooting game. The Blazers may also have a more significant role available now for 7-1 stretch forward Meyers Leonard, who shot .783 from the field and .727 from 3-point range in the preseason.

“Seth and Nik give us a totally different element with Meyers, the way he shot in the preseason,” Portland general manager Neil Olshey said. “We brought in guys who could have more of an impact at the offensive end.”

The Blazers may be without their starting small forward, Moe Harkless, who missed the entire preseason while rehabbing from knee surgery. His place will likely be taken Thursday night by third-year pro Jake Layman, who averaged 12.0 points and shot .512 from the field and .500 on 3-point attempts through the preseason.

“We’re pleased with the way Jake has seamlessly stepped into that role,” Olshey said.

Report: Clippers “have a better than not chance of getting” Kawhi Leonard next summer

Getty Images
1 Comment

This line of thinking has gone from a quiet buzz around league circles to a rumor to the point where the game’s top news breaker — Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN — is reporting it as 50/50 or better:

Kawhi Leonard could be coming to the Clippers next summer as a free agent.

Here is what Wojnarowski said on a podcast with Zach Lowe:

“What the Clippers are doing right now is very below the radar. What they’ve done to put themselves in position. They didn’t gut themselves and they’re not tanking. They’re putting a competitive team on the floor. I think, right now, with Kawhi Leonard, they have a better than not chance of getting him. We know things will change. He could love Toronto…

“The Clippers are in great position with him. They have two max slots. They will be heard from again, I think, in these Jimmy Butler trade talks.”

The Clippers name came up in the Butler trade talks early, but Minnesota (read: Tom Thibodeau) reportedly asked for Tobias Harris and the Clippers shot that down cold. The talks have gained no traction after that, according to sources. The Clippers like Harris (who is a free agent this July and wants to get paid) and ideally want to keep him, but there will be serious roster overhaul in Los Angeles this summer and what happens to Harris will depend on a lot of other variables. Leonard included.

What Wojnarowski is reporting here is along the lines of what a lot of people around the league are talking about. This isn’t out of left field.

I can hear Lakers fans now: He is coming to us. (Knicks fans may be thinking that too, unless they are busy dreaming about Kevin Durant.) But there are a couple of reasons the Clippers make sense over those other markets.

First is the shadow of LeBron James. Not everybody wants to play in it. If Leonard — or, more accurately, the people around Leonard — want to build his brand and have him become the center of a marketing machine, being in that shadow could be seen as stunting his growth.

Them there is just fit with an organization. By his nature, Leonard does not seek out the brightest lights, he is not on social media, he does not dream of being part of the celebrity culture, and Leonard does not like a lot of drama in and around the locker room. All of those things come with signing a Lakers’ contract, and the same thing with the Knicks. While the Clippers are in Los Angeles and players there can seek out all those distractions if they want, the Clipper brand isn’t doesn’t bring the same intensity of spotlight that the Lakers with LeBron would.

All of those reasons — plus one extra guaranteed year at north of $40 million — could keep Leonard in Toronto if the team does well this season. However, if next July he’s looking to move on, the Clippers really could be his new home.

Paul George: I would have signed with Lakers if Pacers didn’t trade me to Thunder

Harry How/Getty Images
2 Comments

Paul George didn’t request a trade from the Pacers. He merely informed them he’d leave in free agency and told people he’d sign with the Lakers, leaving it up to Indiana what to do about it.

The Pacers traded him to Oklahoma City, where George found a long-term home. He re-signed with the Thunder this summer.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

Paul George revealed to ESPN’s The Undefeated that he “would have been in a Lakers uniform” if he had never been traded from the Indiana Pacers. But after the Pacers dealt the five-time All-Star to the Oklahoma City Thunder instead last year, he fell in love with his new team and playing with Russell Westbrook before eventually agreeing to a four-year, $137 million contract extension this past offseason.

“It was 50-50 on deciding whether I wanted to come back home or if it was smarter to be in the situation I am in now,” George told The Undefeated. “But it wasn’t overstated. I wanted to play in L.A. That is where I wanted to go. Had that trade never went down, had I played one more year in Indy, I would have been in a Lakers uniform.”

Even while with the Thunder, George spoke openly about the appeal of Los Angeles. Despite not meeting with the Lakers in free agency, he still called them tempting. He’s mostly just confirming what we already believed.

Remember, the Lakers could have traded for George last year. Instead, they banked on getting him without surrendering assets, and that gambit failed. Importantly, they still lured LeBron James, but they’re still searching for a second star.

This ought to reopen questions about whether the Lakers erred by not trading for Kawhi Leonard. Leonard reportedly has interest in Los Angeles (though maybe more in the Clippers), but the Lakers watched the Spurs trade him to the Raptors. Will Leonard similarly fall for Toronto and spurn his hometown team?

It’d be a mistake to assume Leonard will follow the path of George, who’s a completely different person. But it’d also be a mistake not to evaluate the precedent set by George and learn from it.

Pistons play recording of Aretha Franklin’s national anthem while spotlighting open microphone at center court (video)

1 Comment

Pistons legend Isiah Thomas eulogized Aretha Franklin – a proud Detroit native – last summer and concluded with a message to the deceased singer:

I want you to know, I love you. The world loves you. And most importantly, Aretha, Detroit loves you.

Detroit showed its love for Aretha before the Pistons’ opener yesterday. Thomas again spoke kindly of her then asked for a moment of silence. The arena went dark and quiet.

Then, a spotlight shined on an unattended microphone at center court as a recording of Aretha’s national anthem played. While this video shows the powerful rendition of the song, by focusing on the images of Aretha shown on the scoreboard, it doesn’t even capture the full feeling of the moment.

Seeing that open spotlighted microphone throughout the entire anthem was hauntingly beautiful and a great tribute to the Queen of Soul.