Culture of Hoops

The lost art of the mid-range game

LeBron James and Chris Paul match-up

A lost art.

The ability to crossover the defender, create your own shot and rise up from twenty feet and knock down a jump shot. The skill to drive left and pull up and shoot over the defense, doesn’t quite generate the excitement of a rim-rattling slam dunk, nor does it garner the attention of a spot-up three-pointer from the corner.

Turn on an NBA game at any point in the season, and often the announcers will wax poetic about the lost art of the mid-range jumper off-the-dribble.

It has been replaced by the three-pointer, with players more apt to pull up from beyond the arc, then at the corner of the key. With the increase of three-point shots taken per game and three-point marksmen such as Steve Novak and Kyle Korver, has come the decrease of skilled off-the-dribble mid-range shooters.

According to, during the 2012-13 season, the average percentage of shots made from 10-15 feet was 41.9 percent, and the percentage of shots made from 16-23 feet was 38.4 percent.

When composing the list of top mid-range shooters in the league, certain players were disqualified from the list, those being whose jumpers were created more than 50 percent of the time via an assist, and those who don’t shoot more than three times a game from 16-23 feet. Thus players such as Korver, J.J. Redick and Demar Derozan (each of whom had among the highest percentage of makes from 16-23 feet) were disqualified.

A few surprising omissions from the list, Houston guard James Harden, who shoots just 36 percent from 16-23 feet, making less than one shot a game from that range. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who no doubt is one of the league’s best shooters, failed to qualify for the list due to being assisted on 54.6% of his shots from 16-23 feet. Brooklyn’s Deron Williams also failed to crack the leaders, and surprisingly for a point guard, was assisted on 51.7 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet.

While Harden, Williams and Durant didn’t make the list, the following players did:

Stephn Curry, Golden State Warriors 
Regarded as one of the best shooters in the league, Curry is at or near the top of any list of the best shooters in the NBA. While a great spot-up shooter, Curry shot 44 percent from 16-23 feet, with only 26% of those makes coming via an assist.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks 
The leading scorer last season in the league, Anthony shot 43 percent from 16-23 feet, and was assisted on 36.1 percent of those shots. Anthony also took on average, more shots from 16-23 feet than any other small forward in the NBA last season.

J.R. Smith, New York Knicks 
It might come as a surprise to some, due to his reputation as a volume shooter, but Smith shot 41 percent from 16-23 feet and was assisted on only 18.7 percent of his shots from that range. The only shooting guard assisted on less of his shots – Harden.

Lebron James, Miami Heat 
It should come as no surprise that the best player in the world is among the best at shooting the mid-range jumper. James connected on 46 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet, and is assisted on 21.6 percent of his attempts.

Jarrett Jack, Cleveland Cavaliers 
Perhaps the surprise of the list, Jack shot 48 percent last season with Golden State from 16-23 feet, and was assisted on only 22.6 percent of those shots. Jack’s shooting touch got lost behind the gaudy shooting numbers Curry put up last season, but weren’t lost to the Cavaliers, who signed Jack in the offseason to back-up Kyrie Irving.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers 
Bryant attempted the second-most shots among shooting guards from 16-23 feet, trailing only Toronto’s DeRozan. Bryant shot 40 percent from 16-23 feet and was assisted on only 24.8 percent of those. Despite having one of the greatest point guards in the history of the NBA on his team, Bryant’s percentage of shots he was assisted on from 16-23 feet actually went down from 45.1 percent the previous season.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers 
The Clippers veteran point guard shot 50.0 percent from 16-23 feet, and was assisted on only 19.2 percent of those shots last season. As a bonus, Paul also shot 50.0 percent from 10-15 feet.

Some post-list notes on this group of shooters. There is no doubt most in the league would rather have Durant taking the last shot than Jarrett Jack or J.R. Smith. And by no means does this list represent the best shooters in the NBA, but it does provide a snapshot of the best mid-range shooters in the league last season that don’t need an assist to help create their shot.

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