A shot many fans of the sport have declared obsolete due to the influx of three-pointing shooting, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets are excellent in mid-range situations and that still matters.
Analytics have all but taken over the NBA universe, math has determined which shots have viability, how each player reacts in any given scenario and documents their habits and how they like to go about their offense/defense. So in an era that classifies shooting mid-range jumpers as a “poor” decision, how do Brooklyn Nets’ Durant and Irving find success in going against the grain?
Well, I could illustrate how mid-range jumpers still have a place in the NBA, but I’m just a regular guy with a Word Press account. You don’t have to take my word for it, listen to what the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA, Erik Spoelstra, had to say about the mid-range shot. (0:39-1:25).
If you didn’t, here’s a brief summary of what he said.
He emphasized on how defenses are scheming out three specific looks: threes, layups and free throws. Well, if all the attention is focused primarily on those aspects of the game, that leaves an opening for the mid-range game and post-up opportunities for big men, which he also makes sure to note on.
Essentially, the mid-range game isn’t dead, in fact, it can be a deadly weapon if utilized efficiently.
Fortunately, the Brooklyn Nets have two players that excel in mid-range instances; Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
When you need a bucket with the game hanging in the balance, especially come April-June, it doesn’t matter which way it comes and having a guy that can score wherever and however he wants is critical to success.
Kevin Durant is amongst the most electrifying scorers this league has ever seen. There really is no limitations to how can initiates his offense and his mid-range game is no exception to that rule.
Here are Kevin Durant’s shooting splits, via Shane Young of Forbes.com, you can see as he’s gotten older, the mid-range is an area of his offense that he’s improved upon.
As I mentioned, he’s not the only Net that excels in this regard; Kyrie Irving’s mid-range game is nearly as deadly, a feat that’s really impressive when you take into consideration just how good Durant is when shooting from that area.
According to nbaminer.com, 22.72 percent of Irving’s shots from a season ago came via mid-range and in those instances, he shot a rather efficient 49.6 percent. What’s even more impressive is unlike mid-range aficionados of previous eras, both players are excellent from beyond the arc as well—Durant is a career 38.1 percent shooter from deep, while Irving is a career 39.0 shooter.
Players of their magnitude really stand out come playoff time (though I’m sure naysayers will point out Irving’s ECSF against the Bucks, where I direct them back to his ’16 playoff run), they’ll provide a much-needed boost during crunch time as really either player can get a bucket in isolation or a set play for coach Kenny Atkinson whenever and wherever.
Once again, analytically speaking, I’m certain the mid-range shot comes with more cons than pros in this era. If you were to replace every mid-range shot a team took with a three-point look—which would mean following the Daryl Morey method of offensive output—you’d probably account for more points per game.
This isn’t an article stating my wishes for Atkinson to prioritize mid-range jump shots, this isn’t 1997; however, having two players on your roster that can score with relative ease in those looks isn’t at all a deterrent.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Nets employ two of the better scorers in the NBA right now, and though one is still rehabbing from injury, their presence puts the team directly in the conversation for championship contenders.
And again, when it comes to playoff basketball, especially in clutch time, I, for one, won’t be upset if either player pumps fake a defender when catching the ball off the three-point line and proceeds to dribble into a mid-range jump shot that they’re comfortable in taking. Erik Spoelstra likes the shot and he’s won two NBA Championships, so it can’t be that bad.