Basketball Statistica

Home     NBA     NCAA   Season Stats   AnyStat     The Kelty Index    Blog   

Mid-Range in This Year's NBA Finals

By: Yang Kelty

July 15, 2021

   As most NBA fans know, the league has completely transformed in the last 10 years, which many attribute to the "Analytic Revolution." This 'Analytic Revolution' is most commonly characterized as a focus on 3-pointers and close-range shots because of their higher expected value when compared to the mid-range. And yet, we find ourselves in the 2021 finals with two teams who have been carried on the shoulders of some of the most prolific and consistent midrange shooters in our league -- Chris Paul, Khris Middleton, and Devin Booker.
   As a strong proponent of the Analytic Revolution, I find myself pondering how the NBA Playoffs have decided that the two best teams in the league are the two teams most heavily populated by mid-range sharpshooters. And I've blamed any other aspect of the game that I could. I've blamed the number of injuries in the playoffs; I've attributed it to role-playing three point shooters; I've attributed to the close-range titans Giannis and Ayton; and I've blamed it on dumb luck. However, I can’t blame it entirely on injuries when they were the second and third best teams in their respective conferences when the entire regular season was all said and done. And I can’t contribute it to role-players and the titans inside when I watch these Finals games being dominated by mid-range shots.
   After much consideration, I have come to the conclusion that these Finals aren’t an indication of the end of the Analytic Revolution, but instead more of a sign that the 3-pointer is not the Analytic Revolution’s all holy savior. The offensive analytics behind basketball is all about finding the shots with the highest expected value. At the beginning, the 3-pointer had a higher expected value than the mid-range because the shooter was getting 1.5 times as many points for a shot only slightly farther away. However, since that offensive revelation came about and the subsequent implementation in offenses across the league followed, defenses have adjusted. In order to combat the Analytic Revolution, defenses have put all the pressure at the 3-point line and near the basket, as can be seen in the drop-cover defense of the pick-and-roll. These defenses have left the mid-range essentially unmanned, making it an increasingly higher value shot. Players like Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Khris Middleton are exploiting this and are finding wide open shots in the previously-cluttered midrange.
   This change does not mean an end to the Analytic Revolution but instead a shift. Rather than looking at one specific shot to always be the answer, analysts should find new ways to discover the most valuable shots given the defense being played.