Discussion

The value of inefficiency

Players who look for midrange shots aren't always a drag on offenses

Originally Published: April 9, 2012
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com

The Philadelphia 76ers have built an historically great defense upon the principle of forcing opponents into shooting long 2-point jump shots, but an unhealthy dose of midrange jumpers can kill a team's offense, too.

Per Hoopdata's stats, the only shot distance that has a significant impact on a team's offensive efficiency is the percentage of field goal attempts taken from 16-23 feet. That the impact is negative shouldn't be very surprising, either -- after all, the expected value of a given shot from that range this season is just 0.76 points per attempt. Put another way: if all else is equal, the difference between having the league's lowest percentage of shots from 16-23 feet (Denver's 15.5 percent) and its highest (Charlotte's 35.2 percent) is worth 6.5 points per 100 possessions. That's a bigger boost to an offense than replacing a league-average point guard with Chris Paul.

For all the hemming and hawing by purists over the "lost art" of the midrange game, the basic math on those shots appears to be quite damning. If the average player makes 38 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet -- shots that are still worth just two points -- and 35 percent on 3-pointers, why not eschew the long midrange jumper entirely and instead take a shot that gives you an extra point? That's essentially where the game is heading. In just six seasons, the league has gone from taking 26.9 percent of its shots from 16-23 feet to 24.5 percent. Simply, teams are learning to cut out the game's least efficient type of shot.

MORE NBA HEADLINES