It’s all about the Mid-Range Jumpshot

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Published: January 7, 2015

I spend a lot of time talking about the mid-range jump shot. Honestly, I spend too much time talking about the mid-range jump shot. The reason why is pretty simple. Everyone hates the mid-range jump shot. I understand why they hate it. “Analytics” tells us it is the most inefficient shot in basketball. Yes, half court heaves are more efficient because of the extra point you get from the 3 point line… I’m kidding.

All jokes aside, I’ve talked about the mid-range jump shot before, and my point is always pretty simple. It is difficult to call any shot inefficient without context. For example, good defenses tend to defend the rim and the 3 point line. This drives down your percentage or expected value from those zones. However, good defenses can’t defend every zone perfectly. Often, they will slightly concede the mid-range jump shot. It is the best outcome for them, right? They’re giving up a long shot, but the offense isn’t gaining that extra point.

Therefore, if you’re an offense playing a good defense, you want to capitalize on what the defense is giving you. In short, if you can hit a mid-range jump shot consistently, it may turn out to be your best offensive option. So while it is not the most efficient shot, in theory, it might be the best available shot in practice.

The NBA is all about the “stretch” 4 right now. That is, power forwards or bigs who can step out and hit long range jumpers. We have two very good jump shooting bigs on this team. Anthony Davis is a monster from the mid-range, and Ryan Anderson has historically been a flame-thrower from 3. This probably isn’t by accident. It seems like we are capitalizing and optimizing our players skill sets relative to one and other. That is why we have a good offense.

Anyway, I digress from my main point. I want to show how mid-range jump shooting can be a useful part of an offense. Specifically, I want to focus on the leagues best scoring forwards and Anthony Davis.  Below, I have a chart of the top 20 per game scoring power forwards according to ESPN. Our favorite unibrowed big man comes in at number 1.

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The column to the right of points per game is the percent of a player’s total field goal attempts that come from the mid-range area, according to NBA.com. The column on the far right ranks those players from highest to lowest percent of field goal attempts from mid-range.

Notice anything? Well, first of all, Anthony Davis is number one in scoring and number five in percent of field goals attempted from mid-range. But look at the rest of the top four scorers. All of those guys, are in the top five of percent field goals attempted from mid-range. The only player missing is Marreese Spieghts, who only averages 12.4 points a game. Of course, he is a 6th man type so this isn’t too surprising.

This table alone doesn’t tell us everything. In fact, it doesn’t even tell us a lot. All we see so far is that some of the top scoring bigs in the NBA take a lot of shots from the mid-range area. Of course, this doesn’t say much about efficiency or how their shot selection is affected by their team’s roster construction. But, we are seeing that quite a few of the best scoring forwards in the NBA earn a lot of those points from the mid-range. I guess the point is that the mid-range isn’t the boogeyman of NBA offenses. A lot of scorers take them, and some do a good job of making them. Again, a mid-range jump shot isn’t always a bad shot.

Let’s focus in on Anthony Davis for a moment. Specifically, let’s focus on the table below. Here is how those 20 power forwards rank in terms off shooting percentage from mid-range.

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Davis comes in 4th at 47.51%. That is not bad. In fact, if you look at the company surrounding him it is pretty good. Also, notice that there is only one other player (Dirk Nowitzki) who is both top 5 in mid-range percentage and top 5 in scoring per game. In the set of top scoring power forwards, Davis is a standout. When we consider their game from mid-range, he is pretty much top of the class.

The Davis mid-range jump shot is becoming an absolutely devastating weapon. Compare him to someone like Lamarcus Aldridge. 357 of Aldridge’s 625 field goal attempts have come from mid-range. That is the most of any player in this data set. He is hitting those at a rate just over 40%. Davis is taking fewer shots from mid-range, but he is hitting at a much higher rate (~47.5%). Nevertheless, Aldridge is still considered to the be the gold standard for mid-range shooting bigs. You don’t hear a lot of criticism when he takes shots from out there, but the data speaks for itself. The NBA has a new big man dominating the middle of the half court, and we shouldn’t be scared of him jacking those unreasonably hated mid range jumpers. Often, it is our best offensive weapon.

 

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