Reviving a lost art in the age of threes and layups
For the long-time basketball heads, the newest evolution of the game can seem like a strange beast. Legends ranging from Larry Bird and Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan were all masters of the midrange game. The bulk of their points were all scored outside of the painted area and inside the arc, even if highflying exploits or clutch plays dominated their highlight reels.
Today, many youngsters seem allergic to the midrange game and basketball analytics often tell us that the long two is the worst shot in basketball. A few players still focus on this shot, with extraordinarily efficient percentages. These include DeMar DeRozan, Khris Middleton and Shaun Livingston, who have made a living by torturing defenders from 18 feet out.
If these shots were so poor, why do players still take it? In fact, the analytics data that suggest the inefficiency of the long two come with the caveat that the data applies to all players in the League, superstar or benchwarmer. If you are adept at the isolation game, or if your team needs a clean look at the end of the shot clock, this is hardly a less efficient shot.
The ability to ply your trade in the midrange grants you boundless options that force the defense to wait and react. If you have the ability to retain your dribble while selling the jab or the pump fake, or if you are able to stop on a dime to pull up for a jumper, the defender will not have the opportunity to force you into a bad shot. You can combine this with an array of hesitation moves to leave them guessing, and you will often have the opportunity to draw a second defender in setting up your teammates for a shot.
In conclusion, the midrange game definitely has a place in basketball, for the new decade and even beyond. In its simplest form, it provides a player with control and freedom. Instead of taking what the defense gives you, you will be able to get the shot you want, when you want it, if you master the midrange game.