Midrange Shooting: The Land of Brotherly Love

Midrange Shooting: The Land of Brotherly Love

Mar 04

“We don’t feel like contested two-point field goals will beat you. At the end of the day, you’ll get beat in the paint, you’ll get beat with fast breaks and you’ll get beat behind the three-point line, but we just don’t feel like teams are going to beat you making contested two-point shots.” – Doug Collins, Head Coach, Philadelphia 76ers

The above quote reveals a little about the defensive philosophy of Doug Collins. The main idea is that since midrange 2-point shots are often the least efficient, most contested shots in the league, if you can force your opponent into taking a large proportion of midrange shots, you’ll be in good shape defensively. This season the 76ers have been true to that defensive philosophy; only 3 defensive teams (CHI, MIN, ORL) concede more midrange shots than the Sixers.

But what’s most fascinating about that quote is that there is no *offensive* team in the league that shoots as many midrange shots as Philly; Collins’ own offense shoots more from the midrange than any other team. In other words, he would love to defend against his own offense.

Some teams depend much more on the midrange game than others. For example, over 46% of Philadelphia’s shots are midrange attempts, while barely 23% of Denver’s shots come from these areas. In other words, Philly shoots about twice as frequently from the midrange than Denver does; the rest of the league falls somewhere in between. Here’s the breakdown:

What’s incredible about this graphic is that Philadelphia is among the top 5 most-frequent shooting teams in 7 of the 8 midrange zones, and leads the league in frequency from 3 of these areas. Remember two things, 1) these are among the least effective shooting zones in the league, and 2) Collins tries to lure his opponents into shooting in these exact places.

Anyway, Philly, Charlotte, and Boston shoot the most frequently from the midrange, but which teams shoot the most effectively? Here are the top 5 most efficient midrange teams in the NBA:
1. LA Lakers ~ 42%
2. Boston ~ 42%
3. Miami ~ 42%
4. Golden State ~ 41%
5. Oklahoma City ~ 41%

4/5 of those teams are pretty good. By the way, New Orleans and Chicago represent the middle of the pack; each team shoots about 38% from midrange areas.

What jumps out to me here is Miami’s symmetrical dominance of the shortish baseline game; they’re the best in the league from both sides. Unfortunately for Sixers fans, Philly only appears on 1 of these 8 lists. This doesn’t mean they’re terrible (overall they rank 11th in midrange efficiency in the NBA), but their efficiency isn’t matching their frequency.

On to the bad news; who shoots worst? Which team has the most inefficient midrange shooting this year? Here’s the answer:
1. Cleveland ~ 33% (Antawn!)
2. Sacramento ~ 34% (Tyreke!)
3. Orlando* ~ 34% (No Bass)*
4. New York ~ 36% (Carmelo!)
5. Atlanta ~ 36% (Josh!)

*Random note: when Orlando traded Brandon Bass for Glen Davis they traded away one of the NBA’s most reliable midrange shooters (Bass ~ 48%) for one of the league’s least reliable (Big Baby ~ 31%).

In general, the teams on the list above are not great teams; teams like Cleveland, Sacramento, and Toronto are particularly inefficient in multiple midrange areas. This means they have added troubles scoring from zones that are already difficult scoring locations. The ability to score points in the midrange is really important; not all possessions end in dunks, or corner 3′s; in fact, more than 1/3 of NBA field goal attempts occur in the midrange. Much has been made of the “lost art of the midrange game” in the NBA, but some players and teams are quite effective in these areas, an ability which provides some offenses additional potency dozens of times per game.

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