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Numbers Notebook:
The mid-range malady

Knicks don't shoot 3-pointers and they're not getting to the rim

POSTED: Nov 14, 2014 1:03 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


3DTV: New York Knicks

NBA TV's Dennis Scott talks with some of the Knicks' players and coaches about adjusting to the triangle offense.

There are nine new coaches this season, but a few of them are more "old" than "new" when it comes to their team's shot selection.

For the last few seasons, the league has been taking more shots from 3-point range. And for much longer than that, it's been taking fewer shots from mid-range (the area between the paint and the 3-point line).

It's simple math. Over the last five seasons, mid-range shots (made at 39.5 percent) have been worth just 0.80 points per attempt, while 3-point shots (made at 35.5 percent) have been worth 1.06 points per attempt. That extra point you get for having your feet behind the arc means a lot over the course of a season.

Highest percentage of mid-range shots attempted
Team M-R FGA Total FGA %M-RA
New York 308 746 41.3%
L.A. Lakers 247 676 36.5%
Minnesota 215 598 36.0%
Washington 229 646 35.4%
Charlotte 221 656 33.7%

Unfortunately, they're bucking the trend in Los Angeles, Minnesota and New York, where the Lakers, Timberwolves and Knicks are taking the most mid-range shots in the league.

New York

The Knicks lead the way. They've taken 41.3 percent of their shots from mid-range, the highest rate we've seen since the 2008-09 Pistons. Derek Fisher's Triangle has reduced his team's 3-point attempts, its shots at the basket and its free-throw attempts. In fact, the Knicks currently have the lowest free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) in NBA history, getting to the line just 19 times per 100 shots.

The Triangle isn't necessarily a mid-range focused offense. None of Phil Jackson's Lakers teams ranked higher than 18th in percentage of shots from mid-range. And the lack of pick-and-rolls -- the Knicks rank last in the league in ball screens per game, according to SportVU -- doesn't necessarily lead to an inability to get to the basket. Philadelphia ranks 29th in ball screens per game and gets to the rim more than every team but one (New Orleans).

The Knicks actually rank lower on defense (25th) than they do on offense (22nd), which is as much about personnel as it is about coaching. But better defense could lead to more transition opportunities. New York ranked last in fast break points last season (9.0 a game) and has averaged even fewer this year (7.4).

More fast breaks could lead to more shots at the rim. The Knicks had 11 of the latter in Wednesday's loss to Orlando. If you like to see Samuel Dalembert and Quincy Acy shoot jumpers, get yourself to MSG before the Knicks figure things out.

L.A. Lakers

GameTime: State Of The Lakers

Shaq and Greg Anthony believe Kobe and the Lakers are in for a rough season.

The Lakers aren't quite on the Knicks' level, but they have taken a greater percentage of their shots from mid-range (36.5 percent) than any team did last season or the year before. All those mid-range shots have replaced 3-pointers, which Byron Scott dismissed as for teams who just want to get to the playoffs. (The Lakers are in last place in the Western Conference, by the way.)

More threes will come with the return of Nick Young, and the Lakers are actually a much better offensive team than defensive team. But taking 31 mid-range shots per game at 39 percent is not a good way to maximize efficiency.


Flip Saunders is Mr. Mid-Range. In seven of his last 11 seasons as a coach (not including 2011-12, when he was fired after 17 games), his team (either the Wolves, Pistons or Wizards) has led the league in the percentage of shots from mid-range.

Saunders' 1999-00 Wolves attempted more than half of their shots from mid-range. Their mark of 50.8 percent stands as the highest since shot locations started being tracked in 1996, and will likely (and hopefully) remain at the top of the list forever.

Like the Knicks, the Wolves have reduced their attempts at the basket and from 3-point range. They rank 12th in 3-point percentage (36.1). But they've attempted just 14 per game, a number that's probably making Scott jealous.

Here's a look at the other six teams with new coaches and how some of their numbers have changed.


The Beat: Nets, A Balanced Start

The guys discuss Brooklyn's balanced start to the 2014-15 season.

The last time that Lionel Hollins coached, his team -- the 2012-13 Grizzlies -- ranked 29th in pace. But only one team (see below) has increased its pace from last season more than the Nets, who have gone from 25th in possessions per 48 minutes last season to 11th.

Even with more possessions, the Nets have made fewer passes (278 per game this season vs. 295 last season), according to SportVU. Hollins spoke in training camp about not relying on isolations, but that's exactly what the Nets have done. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have taken 52 percent of their shots after three or more dribbles, up from 45 percent last season.

The Nets have a top-five offense, thanks to some strong shooting. But they've taken fewer threes, shot fewer free throws and have played just one top-10 defense (Golden State) in their eight games. So that top-five ranking doesn't appear sustainable.

Defensively, the Nets have rebounded more and forced fewer turnovers than they did last year, results of playing a lot more with two traditional bigs and not with Shaun Livingston's long arms.


It's probably more appropriate to compare this year's Cavs to last year's Heat, because LeBron James changes a team more than any coach could. When that's done, the personnel difference stands out. To put his best players on the floor, David Blatt is playing James more at the three than at the four and playing two bigs together a lot more than Miami did.

As a result, the Cavs are shooting fewer threes and rebounding better. But the better rebounding has been only on offense. They're a bottom-10 defensive rebounding team.

What's interesting is that the Cavs' pick-and-roll scheme is similarly aggressive to the one we saw in Miami, but the Cavs haven't forced as many turnovers as the Heat, who ranked in the top five in opponent turnover rate each of their last three years with James. Cleveland ranks 15th through Thursday and ranked dead last in forcing turnovers in the preseason.

Overall, the Cavs rank 29th in defensive efficiency. That's obviously not going to cut it.


Coach Stan Van Gundy has played Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond together for just 12.5 minutes per game, down from 17.9 last season. More importantly, the Pistons have been a decent defensive team in those minutes, allowing less than a point per possession.

Overall, the Pistons are defending the 3-point line better. No defense has forced its opponents to take a greater percentage of shots from mid-range. But the Pistons are still a bottom-10 defensive team, in part because they've forced a league-low 12.0 turnovers per 100 possessions.

Offensively, the Pistons have exchanged some shots at the rim for 3-pointers, even though Jodie Meeks hasn't played yet and Smith reduced his 3-point attempts by more than half.

Golden State

The Starters: Are The Warriors Contenders?

The Starters discuss whether or not the Warriors are a legitimate title contender.

Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors are the only team that's increased its pace more than Brooklyn. The Warriors were a pretty fast-paced team last season, but they're back to leading the league for the first time since Don Nelson was their coach ('09-10).

They remain a stronger defensive team (ranked No. 3 for the second straight season) than offensive team. They've shot better, but have grabbed fewer offensive boards and have the league's highest turnover rate, which could be a result of passing the ball about 75 more times per game. Ball movement can be nice, but thus far, it hasn't produced a better offense for the Dubs.

The return of David Lee could give the offense a boost. His turnover rate last season (10.8 per 100 possessions) was lower than Draymond Green's is this year (15.5). But Green has generally played (and shot) well as Lee's replacement in the starting lineup.


The Beat: Believing In Milwaukee

David and Sekou answer questions from NBA fans.

The Bucks are taking more shots from the restricted area and more of their threes from the corners under Jason Kidd. But if it weren't for the Sixers, Milwaukee would have the worst offense in the league. They simply haven't shot well, haven't gone to the line and have turned the ball over too much.

The Bucks are 4-4, though. And it's because they have, by far, the most improved defense in the league. Milwaukee's schedule has been littered with bad offensive teams, so their No. 2 defensive ranking is inflated. But it's certainly a good sign and they certainly have the length and athleticism to be a disruptive defense, as Kidd's Nets were in the second half of last season.


Quin Snyder is allowing his power forwards to let it fly. The Jazz have attempted 30.3 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the sixth highest rate in the league. That's up from 23.7 percent last season (20th) and is the second-biggest increase in the league (behind only Houston).

They've also increased their shots in the restricted area, with mid-range jumpers being reduced from 29 percent of their shots last season to 21 percent this year. Hooray for Quin Snyder, who is apparently the Anti-Flip.

The result? The Jazz are the fifth most improved offensive team in the league, scoring 4.6 points per 100 possessions more than they did last season.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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