King in the North: the Mid-Range Assassin

Do you remember when coach Mike D’Antoni said that mid-range shots were basically pointless? No? Then let me refresh your memory.

“Guys just started shooting the ball so well from 3, so why wouldn’t we shoot more? If you do shoot 3s, then that’s really going to open up the basket, so it’s either layups or 3s.”

Mike D’Antoni

Now what’s the underlying meaning behind that quote? The fact that players have gotten so good at shooting threes there is really no reason to shoot anything from 10-20-feet away.

If you shoot three-point shots, it opens up driving lanes and dump-off passes underneath the basket for lay-ups, so basically it’s either lay-ups or threes.

Pick your favorite shooter, where is he on the list:

Now what if I told you one of the best shooters in the league doesn’t shoot threes? The Mid-Range Assassin doesn’t bang from outside.

Mid-range shooters are getting scarcer, but there is one player who has embraced the mid-range game, averaging around 22 shots per game with only 1.6 of those coming from behind the arc. He also is averaging 27.9 points per game, not only his career best but good enough for fifth best in the NBA.

Most of you already know who the man is, but for those who don’t, the man is All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan from the Toronto Raptors. Check out his mid-range game – it’s immaculate:

If you think he can’t lead a team to the promised land or be an elite player without being a deep threat, then you’re an idiot and wrong. Sorry to be blunt but that’s the truth. Did you see his game the other night versus the New York Knicks? How does 37 points on 13-25 shooting AND the game winner sound? Or what about the previous game against Portland where he dropped 33, or the game before that versus Boston where he had 43? Still think he can’t ball?

Born and raised in Compton, Ca., DeRozan’s favorite player was no other than the GOAT himself, Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant. And yes, while Kobe could knock down three-pointer after three-pointer, and did hold the record for most threes made in a single game with 12 until the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry broke it this year with 13, he relied mostly on mid-range shots to do his damage.

Remember Kobe blowing by a defender than stopping on a dime and pulling up from 15-feet to knock down the shot in the defenders face? I do. I can even remember a time he did it for a game winner in the 2006 playoffs versus the Phoenix Suns. So DeRozan took one of the game’s greatest scorer’s best attributes and adapted it as his own.

With the floor today being so spaced out by three-point shooters, why not take advantage of the open floor? Derozan loves to start with the ball from the 20-foot mark and work to his sport for a 15-10-feet shot. If he gets double-teamed, he kicks it out to an open shooter. But shooting a mid-range jumper is a higher percentage shot than one from downtown and he takes advantage of that.

DeRozan is not only paying homage to the way the game used to be played, and Kobe Bryant, but he has elevated his game and dominating at the same time.

It’s true the game has changed, as it does every generation, but shooting as many three-point shots as we see in the game today is just a fad. It will die. Eventually more players will start taking advantage of what’s open. Ultimately, defenders are gonna get so good at defending against the three that players are going to have no choice but to get closer.

So you keep doing your thing in Canada, DeRozan. Keep shooting mid-range shots and keep getting buckets. We’ll see you and the Raptors in the NBA Playoffs.