Who are the best mid-range shooters in the league?

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The mid-range game is becoming a bit of a lost art in the NBA, and for good reason: according to Hoopdata.com, NBA players make 64% of their shots at the rim and 36.2% of their threes (which translates to an eFG% of 54.3%), but only make 38.4% of their shots from 10-15 feet and 39.7% of their shots from 16-23 feet.

Given how big and athletic most NBA players are nowadays, it’s almost always more efficient to get a shot at the rim or an open three-pointer than it is to settle for a mid-range jumper, but the mid-range game does serve a purpose. Mid-range jumpers are the easiest shots to get off, they don’t lead to turnovers, they keep the defense honest, and they can open up driving lanes or free up three-point shooters. If the mid-range game is used correctly, it can be just as overwhelming to a defense as a punishing interior game or a barrage of threes, and some of the NBA’s best offenses (like Miami) still rely on mid-rage jumpers to keep the defense off balance.

There you have it — the best mid-range shooters in the NBA so far this season.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the NBA’s best mid-range shooters:

Dirk Nowitzki:

Dirk is the best midrange shooter in the NBA, and it’s really not even close. Dirk is known for having a seven-foot frame and a sweet stroke, but the key to his success is how good he is at making “ugly” jumpers. Dirk is never quite on balance when he shoots over a defender from the high post or the midpost, but he’s never really rushing either — he takes his time, squares his shoulders to the target, fades away just enough to keep the defender from having any chance of blocking the shot and calmly shoots over him.

There are a number of players who have had “unblockable” shots over the years, either because they shot them so quickly the defender didn’t have time to react (Antawn Jamison comes to mind), or used a ridiculously high release to keep the ball away from the defender (Rasheed Wallace), but they had to sacrifice accuracy in order to keep their signature shots away from potential shot-blockers. That’s not the case with Dirk; his shot is unblockable, but it’s the exact shot he wants. Dirk’s fadeaway is now what Kareem’s skyhook was in the 70s and 80s: a shot that the offensive player is completely comfortable taking and the defensive player has no chance of stopping. (Blasphemy, you say? At 32 years old, Kareem averaged 24.8 PPG on 63.9% True Shooting; before getting injured, Dirk was averaging 24.1 PPG on 63.2% True Shooting.)

The numbers speak to just how devastating Dirk is from mid-range. Dirk makes 3.7 shots from 16-23 feet per game, which is easily the most in the league, and he makes a 53% of his attempts from that area — only Al Horford is more accurate from that range, and almost all of his midrange shots are catch-and-shoot opportunities. Dirk is also effective from the 10-15 foot range — he makes 1.7 shots from that range per game, which is tied for the league lead, and he makes an impressive 53% of those shots. Oh, and Dirk makes 40% of his threes, 76.3% of his shots at the rim, and 88% of his free throws. Dirk Nowitzki is better at putting a basketball in a 10-foot high hoop than you are at just about anything.

Dirk is having a historically great year from mid-range, but here are some other players whose mid-range exploits have been worthy of merit:

Al Horford:

A number of big men have all but mastered the art of the open catch-and-shoot 20-footer. Kevin Garnett and David West both make 48% of their 16-23 foot jumpers, Luis Scola makes 49% of his, pick-and-pop master Chris Bosh makes 46% of his, and Brandon Bass makes an incredible 52% of his. But as good as all of them are at the pick-and-pop jumper, Al Horford is nearly automatic: according to Hoopdata, Horford has made 57% of his 16-23 foot jumpers this season. It’s not like he rarely shoots them, either, because he takes nearly five jumpers from that range each game. Over 90% of his jumpers are assisted, but 57% is absolutely insane. I mean, Dwight Howard only makes 56.4% of his free throws.

Steve Nash:

Even though he’s mostly known for his passing, Nash is one of the best pure shooters the NBA has seen in the last few decades. Like Nowitzki, Nash is comfortable with a wide variety of shots that defenders have no chance of blocking, although Nash uses odd release angles and unorthodox footwork rather than his size to get his shots off. The results are the same, though — Nash can get a shot off from anywhere, at any time, and it will have a good chance of going in. Nash is “only” making 46% of his 16-23 foot shots, but he’s a master of the 10-15 foot range that most NBA players have no idea how to operate in: Nash averages one make from that area a game, and makes 56.7% of his attempts from the 10-15 foot range. I’ll also mention Ray Allen here — Allen’s shooting prowess is well-known, but the fact that he’s making 63% of his shots from 10-15 feet seems worth mentioning.

Luke Ridnour:

The lord of the pull-up jumper. Ridnour makes 56% of his jumpers from the 10-15 foot range, and 47% of his long twos despite the fact that only 9% of them are assisted.

Anthony Morrow:

Morrow is known for his three-point shooting, but he’s transformed himself into more of a “pure” shooter over the course of his young NBA career. Morrow is shooting 53.6% on 10-15 foot shots and 51% on 16-23 foot shots, making him one of few players who makes over half his shots from both areas. Do not leave Anthony Morrow unguarded.

There you have it — the best mid-range shooters in the NBA at this point in the season. I went with accuracy over volume for this list, which is why players like Carmelo, Kobe and Durant were left off — there’s no doubt that those guys are taking far tougher shots than most of the players listed above, but they’re also barely making more than 40% of their midrange jumpers. Besides, those guys get plenty of glory as is; let’s take a second to celebrate the guys who have been quietly knocking down the mid-range jumpers that open up those driving lanes and keep defenses from loading up on the superstars. And Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a freak. Get well soon, Dirk.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.

Wembanyama scores 37, Scoot Henderson 28, as both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?