Midrange Shooting in the NBA: The Mayors, The Maestros, and the Maniacs

Midrange Shooting in the NBA: The Mayors, The Maestros, and the Maniacs

Apr 03

37% of NBA field goal attempts are “midrange” shots, but the ability to score efficiently from this area is surprisingly rare. In fact, the midrange areas contain many of the league’s least effective shot locations. As a result, I’ve been fascinated by the midrange game in the NBA; I’ve been exploring which players and teams are best and worst in the midrange game; that’s what this post is about: which players excel in the midrange?

Which players shoot the most, the best, and the worst from this area?

Part I: The Most: The Mayors of the Midrange
Part of shooting ability is simply being able to get a shot off. Particularly in the midrange, where many shots are contested, the ability to get a decent shot in the NBA must be considered a skill. Here are the most frequent midrange shooters in the NBA this season:

1. Kobe Bryant
2. Dirk Nowitzki
3. LaMarcus Aldridge
4. Kevin Durant
5. Al Jefferson

But when we break down the midrange further into eight zones we get some different names:

Kobe, Kobe, Kobe! Kobe shoots a lot! He shoots a lot from everywhere, especially in the midrange. In fact, he leads the league in field goal attempts from 3 of these 8 midrange zones; he is second in three others! Al Jefferson is by far the most active post player on the left block, which is evident in his #1 ranking in those two zones above. But what about efficiency? The above chart tells us nothing about how effective these players are in these zones.

Part II: The Best: The Maestros of the Midrange
Overall the most effective midrange shooters in the league are*:
1. Stephen Curry ~ 55%
2. Steve Nash ~ 53%
3. Kevin Durant ~ 49%
4. Chris Paul ~ 48%
5. Brandon Bass ~ 48%
*with at least 100 attempts

Here is a more thorough breakdown of the most efficient shooters from 8 midrange locations:

Although the league shoots about 37% of its shots in midrange areas only about 29% of the league’s points from made field goals come from these zones. In other words, these are generally inefficient shots, but some players and some teams excel in these places, which suggests there should be added value for guys who score effectively from midrange locations. With this in mind, it’s not surprising to see many high paid players on the lists above; perhaps, Jason Smith needs a raise for outshooting Dirk and Durant in one of their hot zones, but I’ll leave that up to Dell Demps and David Stern.

Maybe you’re as surprised as me at some of the names above. Who knew that Thaddeus Young was as good as KG from that long left 2?

Part III: The Worst: The Maniacs of the Midrange
Remember, the midrange areas in the NBA include some very difficult shots; shots that are often contested, and from a risk management point-of-view, may not be worthwhile attempts for most NBA players. These “facts” haven’t stopped many of the league’s most infamous bricklayers from shooting frequently there. Here are the worst midrange shooters in the NBA this year*:

1. Tyreke Evans ~ 25%
2. Markieff Morris ~ 25%
3. C.J. Miles ~ 26%
4. Corey Maggette ~ 27%
5. James Johnson ~ 27%
*with at least 100 attempts

The breakdown reveals some other familiar names. Congrats to Russ Westbrook and Shawn Marion for appearing in multiple zones; don’t stop trying, you guys!

At the end of the day, I think midrange shooting examinations are a very efficient means to identify some of the league’s best (and worst) shooters. We know players like Durant, Dirk, and Kobe are among the league’s best shooters, but one of the reasons why is because they can score effectively from some of the most difficult places on the court.

In the next post, we’ll look at teams in the midrange.

The End. Thanks to jumpin’ Matt Adams for the data assist.

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