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Who has the best mid-range game in the NBA?

Mar 15, 2010, 7:12 PM EDT

Yes, the midrange game is dying. This much is known. However, there’s also a reason why the midrange game is dying. As players get more athletic and comfortable with the three-point shot, the midrange game becomes a worse and worse option. According to Hoopdata.com, shots taken from 10-23 feet are easily the least efficient shots in the league. If players are capable of getting to the rim or getting a good look from deep, there’s not a great reason to settle for a jumper that’s only worth two points. 

However, there are some guys who are still fun to watch go to work from midrange, and can definitely hurt an opposing team with a steady diet of 15-20 footers over the course of a game. Here’s my list of the best midrange shooters currently in the NBA, in no particular order:
1. Steve Nash:

One of the best pure shooters ever to play the game, even though it’s never flashy. Nash has a picture-perfect stroke with almost no moving parts, and will put it straight through the net if he’s given room to set his feet. What sets Nash apart from most great shooters is how good Nash is at setting himself up using his dribble. On the perimeter, Nash uses the screen, waits for the defender to go under, and pulls up from the open spot to knock it down. Closer to the basket, Nash has that goofy array of step-backs, runners, fadeaways, and one-footed jumpers, all of which give him a great look at the basket. The result is that Nash hits 47% of his jumpers from 16-23 feet, and a freakishly high 59% of his shots from the 10-15 foot range. 
2. Kobe Bryant

Nobody is better at getting a decent look at the basket anywhere, at any time. He can be falling into the third row, and Bryant will still manage to get his shoulders squared and his elbow tucked in perfectly. Bryant isn’t as methodical about setting up his midrange shot as some of the other guys on this list because he doesn’t need to be — he can rise up from seemingly any spot on the floor, against any coverage, and fire a shot with a good chance of going in. Defenses have to stick to him on every curl, catch, and jab-step, and sometimes that doesn’t even do much good. And of course, there’s nobody you’d rather have shooting a midrange jumper with the game on the line. Kobe makes half of his shots from 10-15 feet, and nobody in the NBA makes more shots per game from that range. 
3. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk is perhaps best known as a 7-footer who can stroke threes, but in games he’s most comfortable using his size and shooting ability in tandem to stroke deep jumpers over opponents to small to contest them. Dirk’s got a herky-jerky set of moves and jab steps from the high post and a bit of an unorthodox stroke, but really he doesn’t need much space to fire his signature fadeaway, which he makes quite often. Dirk makes a league-leading four shots from 16-23 feet a game, and is a 47% shooter from that range.
4. Ray Allen

Best known as one of the most prolific three-point snipers in NBA history, Allen has remained productive despite shooting a career-low 35% from deep because of the improvements in his midrange game. Allen has become much better in the pull-up game, taking one or two hard dribbles on a drive and then using his gorgeous, gorgeous stroke to knock in a slightly off-balance shot. Allen makes a respectable 45% of his shots from 16-23 feet, but is shooting a Nash-like 58.3% from the 10-15 foot range, up from 47.0% last season and 31.0% the season before. One of the best pure shooters in league history just keeps learning new tricks. 
5. Derrick Rose

If Chris Paul were healthy, it would probably be his name on this list. Instead, it’s Rose, who like Paul uses his blistering speed to set himself up with room for the pull-up jumper. Rose makes nearly half of his jumpers from the 10-15 foot range, where defenders have to back up more than they’d like to because of Rose’s ability to take it to the rack. Rose also makes 3 shots from the 16-23 foot range per game, but that’s a product of Rose taking a whole lot of them; only Nowitzki takes more shots from that range. 
Well, that’s my list. Apologies to Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, and Rip Hamilton, who are talented scorers and clearly comfortable shooting from mid-range, but don’t make those shots at a particularly high percentage. Kevin Durant came within an inch of the list, but his 36% shooting from 16-23 feet kept him off. He’s a beast from 10-15 feet, though. Well, let me know what you think. 

  1. Joe Treutlein - Mar 15, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    Nice list. I’d probably but Dirk 1 and Kobe 2, as I think Nash benefits from a lot of open looks in the pick-and-roll, whereas Kobe/Dirk get most of their shots from isolations, namely operating out of the pinch. I think the latter is more difficult and likewise more rare in the NBA, which is why I place slightly more value on that.
    I think the important thing to note about the mid-range jumpers is that they are necessary for any offense in some amount. When you look at all the real superstars in the league, most of them are able to score efficiently from this range, and I don’t think that’s any coincidence. Having your star player fill that role, taking up the necessary offensive usage in that area of the floor to maintain offensive flow/spacing definitely makes it it easier for the team to build around him, as finding role players who can hit threes and catch-and-finish in the lane efficiently is much easier than finding role players who excel in the mid-range.

  2. RP - Mar 16, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Ahh Joe, the list was compiled using stats not who you think should be 1 and 2. If Dirk had the stats he would have been 1. You guys crack me up when you chime in on something and have no clue…

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