Ranking the NBA's Deadliest Midrange Assassins

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

Ranking the NBA's Deadliest Midrange Assassins

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    Midrange scoring is one of the most overlooked aspects of the offensive game in the NBA. Players who hit shots from outside the paint and inside the three-point arc typically don't get as much credit as they should. 

    However, that's also the distance from which it's toughest to score. The distance makes shots more difficult than attempts from inside the paint, but there isn't the added incentive of an extra point to tempt shooters into firing away. 

    It takes a special type of offensive player to excel from midrange. 

    Rather than analyzing shooting forms and roles within the offense, I've turned to a new metric to determine the rating objectively. 

How Midrange Score Was Calculated

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    The derivation of midrange score is fairly simple. 

    Using hoopdata.com's breakdown of shot locations, I split up each player's field goals into the respective locations. Because we're only looking at midrange shots, 10 to 15 feet and 16 to 23 feet were the only two ranges that impacted the score. 

    The league-average field-goal percentages for those two ranges, respectively, were 38.4 percent and 38.2 percent. 

    A percent difference was calculated for each of the two ranges, then multiplied by the number of field goals attempted per game from each area. The two products were then added together to form the midrange score. 

    Take Carmelo Anthony for example. 

    In 55 games, he shot 42.28 percent on 123 attempts from 10 to 15 feet and 34.74 percent on 308 attempts from 16 to 23 feet. That gave him component scores of 22.58 from the former and minus-50.72 from the latter. As a result, his total midrange score was minus-28.14. 

    Melo, despite his reputation as an incredible offensive player, was the 71st-ranked midrange scorer out of 94 eligible players. Please don't expect to see him mentioned again in the next 10 slides. 

    Players qualified for these rankings if they played enough games to be eligible for the scoring crown and averaged at least 10 points per game. 

10. Luis Scola, Phoenix Suns: 97.89 Midrange Score

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    Position: PF

    Midrange Points Per Game: 5.45

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 46.81

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 43.59

    While Jared Dudley, Marcin Gortat and the now-departed Steve Nash were all positive contributors for the Phoenix Suns during the 2011-12 season, new acquisition Luis Scola now takes over the top spot for the desert-based franchise. 

    Scola uses his set shot to perfection from 10 to 15 feet away from the basket. Even though he never puts any space between the bottoms of his feet and the hardcourt, the ball still manages to find its way through the bottom of the net. 

    The power forward's range doesn't extend all the way through the midrange area, but it doesn't need to because of his effectiveness from short midrange. 

9. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers: 98.11

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    Position: PG

    Midrange Points Per Game: 5.37

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 44.44

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 44.49

    It's a tough feat to earn a spot in the top 10 midrange scorers as a guard, but that's exactly what Chris Paul managed to do with his play during the 2011-12 campaign. 

    The best point guard in the league, CP3 somehow managed to shoot marginally better from the deeper zone in question here. Despite shooting 164 times more from 16 to 23 feet than he did from 10 to 15, Paul still netted 44.49 percent of his shots from the farther zone. 

    Paul's ability to create his own shot and finish the play clearly manifests itself here. He's impressive from everywhere on the court, but this is undoubtedly one of the most impressive aspects of his play. 

8. Elton Brand, Dallas Mavericks: 98.25

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    Position: PF

    Midrange Points Per Game: 5.30

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 45.63

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 43.33

    Elton Brand is the first member of the Dallas Mavericks to appear here, but he certainly won't be the last. 

    Expect to see Darren Collison running a lot of pick-and-pop sets with Elton Brand, because that's where the veteran power forward truly excels. When he sets a screen and shifts back to free himself for an open midrange jumper, it's ridiculously tough to stop Brand. 

    As his athleticism continues to decline with age, Brand is being forced to rely on his midrange game even more. That may not be a bad thing. 

7. Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls: 108.31

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    Position: PF

    Midrange Points Per Game: 6.15

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 43.31

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 44.70

    Carlos Boozer might get hated on a lot, but you can't possibly deny his prowess from outside the paint and inside the three-point arc. 

    The power forward still has a sensational jumper, one that arcs high and inevitably finds the small circle in the middle of the orange rim. Of course, he has to find something to counterbalance his uninspired and flat-out awful defensive play. 

    Boozer will be taking more midrange jumpers than ever while Derrick Rose recovers from his ACL injury. 

6. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: 108.57

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    Position: SF

    Midrange Points Per Game: 6.61

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 39.47

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 46.43

    Kevin Durant's smooth jumper definitely pays dividends in the midrange game.

    He doesn't really excel from 10 to 15 feet, shooting just above the 38.4-percent league average from that range. However, it's a different story when you take a few strides back. 

    Durant's 46.43-percent shooting from 16 to 23 feet is just sensational, especially on 4.67 attempts per game. This area typically contains the toughest spots to shoot from on the court, but Durant truly stands out here. 

    It shouldn't be any surprise that Durant's name appears here, as he continues to become the most well-rounded scorer in the game. 

5. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: 135.91

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    Position: PF/C

    Midrange Points Per Game: 5.55

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 48.45

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 46.53

    Tim Duncan earned his nickname for a reason. "The Big Fundamental's" technique truly pays off from the midrange spot, as he hits more shots from this area than most other seven-footers. 

    His bank shot comes into play quite often from 10 to 15 feet, where he makes 48.45 percent of his attempts. If he takes a few steps back, he doesn't lose too much efficiency, and he took 148 more shots from the further range during the 2011-12 campaign.

    Whether he puts his hand directly in the cookie jar to aim for that pretty swish of the net or targets the square on the backboard, Duncan's shots typically fall from midrange. 

4. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers: 157.28

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    Position: PG

    Midrange Points Per Game: 4.39

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 50.00

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 53.80

    Steve Nash scored fewer midrange points than any other player in the top 10, but he was marvelously efficient in doing so. You'd expect this type of efficiency from a player who doesn't line up at point guard, which makes Nash's achievements all the more impressive.

    From 10 to 15 feet, the incoming Los Angeles Laker made 50 percent of his shots during the 2011-12 season. Only five other players who averaged 10 or more points per game were able to hit half of their shots from this range: James Harden (62.5 percent on eight attempts during the season), Marvin Williams (54.54 percent on 11 attempts), Caron Butler (54.35 percent on 46 attempts), Gordon Hayward (51.85 percent on 27 attempts) and Leandro Barbosa (51.35 percent on 37 attempts). 

    As you might have noticed, none of them took many shots. Nash attempted 74 shots in 62 games, more than any of the other five. 

    Additionally, he more than broke even from 16 to 23 feet, making him one of just two players to do so. Dirk Nowitzki, Nash's former teammate, shot 50.28 percent from this range but took nearly twice as many shots as Nash did. 

    It takes a truly special player to hit half his shots from both of these ranges. 

3. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics: 164.15

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    Position: PF/C

    Midrange Points Per Game: 7.57

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 40.44

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 47.91

    Kevin Garnett has become more and more averse to post moves as his career has progressed. Now that he's relying on intensity and declining athleticism, his midrange game is starting to play an even more prominent role in his offensive game. 

    The big man has an unbelievably smooth shot from the outside, and his range just keeps getting deeper and deeper. 

    Only Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki took more shots from 16 to 23 feet than KG did during the 2011-12 season, yet the Boston Celtic finished the season with the fifth-highest percentage from that range. 

    And amazingly enough, KG isn't even the best midrange player on his own team. 

2. Brandon Bass, Boston Celtics: 185.08

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    Position: SF/PF

    Midrange Points Per Game: 6.92

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 48.41

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 47.99

    That honor would belong to Brandon Bass, the most surprising entrant on this list in terms of pure name recognition. However, if you've watched Bass' beautiful jumper from midrange, then this lofty ranking won't surprise you at all. 

    Bass had the ninth-best percentage from 10 to 15 feet and the fourth-highest from 16 to 23 feet. That's an impressive combination indeed. 

    The youngish big man could still stand to improve his scoring contributions near the basket, but he already excels in the pick-and-pop, especially with Rajon Rondo feeding him the basketball after coming around a screen. 

1. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: 207.23

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    Position: PF

    Midrange Points Per Game: 9.29

    Shooting Percentage from 10-15 Feet: 40.46 

    Shooting Percentage from 16-23 Feet: 50.28

    Only seven players in the entire league were able to break the 100 barrier in this new metric, but Dirk Nowitzki was the only one who could make it to 200. Just take a second and think about how impressive that is. 

    Dirk's one-legged fadeaway is the shot du jour here, and it's a marvelously effective one that's absolutely impossible to block. Seriously, you just can't reject it. It's not going to happen. 

    While he was only slightly better than average from 10 to 15 feet, he was ridiculously good from 16 to 23 feet. His 50.28-percent shooting from that area was the second-best mark in the league, and only Kobe Bryant attempted more shots from that distance. That combination is pretty darn rare. 

    Dirk has been a special player during his impressive career, and he's firmly established himself as the best midrange player in the game. 


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