In a vacuum, basketball analytic’s wet dream is a team that gets all its shots at the rim or from three. Why? Because those are the two most statistically efficient shots in the game. What teams should do is limit midrange jumpers.
Except, basketball isn’t played in a vacuum — in the real world a team that believes in analytics and builds a team that way will turn to the midrange jumper some nights. For a prime example, see Shaun Livingston racking up 20 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. What matters is that he was efficient doing it.
Enter Evan Turner. The Celtics’ forward is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he does not shoot the three particularly well (he took just one three a game and hit 24 percent of them last season). He took 31 percent of his shot attempts this season between 10-16 feet and hit 42.1 percent of them. Turner has real value as a glue guy leading Boston’s second unit — he could score a little, distribute some, defend, and make the unit go. But he’s not seen as a shooter.
“People say, ‘You can’t shoot the three.’ But I can defend, I can pass, rebound, score. You got guys that all they can do is shoot and nothing else. Like, how a– backwards is that? Only in America can you be a lacrosse player and judge basketball. Or you’ve never played basketball and say, ‘Yeah, I was working on the stock market—[stuff] wasn’t working so now I’m in the NBA judging talent.’ [The media] can write stuff on something they have no clue about.
“The future is in the mid-range. The mid-range is where the money’s at, man. I think the three-point shot opens up the court and everything like that, but MJ and all those great players made all of their money out of the mid-range. So I’m not sorry for that at all. Evan M. Turner. For sure, ‘M’ stands for mid-range. Anywhere within 15 feet is cash. I’ll try to get better at threes, but that’s my game.”
Time for some clarification on analytics and the midrange.
We’ll go to baseball for a good analogy. Some talking heads will say that “Moneyball” killed the stolen base, but all the analytics said is that if you’re not successful about 75 percent of the time you attempt a steal, the cost of the potential out is not worth the extra base. Game situations can dictate a lot (such as, how good an arm does the catcher have; or does the pitcher have a slow delivery) but in general if you’re not really good at stealing bases you shouldn’t do it.
If you’re not really good at midrange shots, you shouldn’t take so many.
Did Michael Jordan make a living in the midrange? Sure. Different era of basketball aside, he was also efficient with that shot. If you shoot the midrange like Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Paul, it’s a valuable weapon — they’re efficient. If Player X is taking a lot of long twos and hitting them at near the same rate he does threes, he should take a step back. That’s all that is being said.
NBA offenses are evolving toward more threes, but eventually the defenses will start to catch up. The pendulum always swings. And players who can efficiently hit midrange jumpers may see their value go up someday — but the quest for efficiency is not going away in the league.
Turner is going to get paid well this summer to play basketball (the Knicks are rumored to be very interested), he brings real value to a team. I appreciate his love of the midrange. But it would help if he hit a few more of them.