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The Midrange Master: How the midrange shot became a staple in Kevin Durant’s game

The Midrange Master: How the midrange shot became a staple in Kevin Durant’s game

The modern NBA has geared itself toward a higher volume of three-point shot attempts and makes. The Houston Rockets are attempting the most threes per game at an insane 44.8 attempts. In contrast, the Los Angeles Clippers are attempting the least number of treys per game at 24.8 per game. The Rockets make the most treys per game at 15.6.

Players from Stephen Curry to Brook Lopez are shooting three-point shots at an even higher rate than ever. Curry is averaging a career-high 11.5 three-point attempts per game this season, while Lopez is averaging 6.5 three-point attempts per game, also a career-high.

It is just a bit more than the halfway point of the season and the Rockets have shot 2,556 threes, more than 400 treys than the second highest team that’s launching threes, which are the Bucks at 2,134. Now, to compare, only 3.4 percent of the Rockets’ points scored are from the midrange area. Only 5.0 percent of the Bucks’ points scored are from midrange.

Matt Barnes, Kevin DUrant, Warriors

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The Warriors’ points scored come 16.8 percent from the midrange area, second in the league to the old-fashioned San Antonio Spurs. The league has moved toward the bombardment of three-point shots, with the midrange jumper nearly vanishing from existence.

However, Curry’s teammate, Kevin Durant has helped revitalize a shot that has nearly become extinct.

Durant is averaging a sizzling 27.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and a career-high 5.9 apg so far in the 2018-2019 campaign. Over Durant’s last three games, a loss in Portland and a couple of home wins against Utah and Miami, the percentage of points scored from midrange were 18.8 at Portland, 35.7 against the Jazz and 35.9 against the Heat.

His midrange game was not used nearly as much in Portland than against Utah and Miami. During the two-game stretch against the Jazz and Heat, Kevin Durant was 16-of-19 on midrange jumpers, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. In addition, in the past three games, KD has shot 8-of-12 from 10-14 feet and a perfect 10-of-10 in the 15-19 foot shooting range.

 

Below is one of the short midrange jumpers from Durant against the Jazz.

Notice how Kevin Durant dribbles in and looks like he might drive to the basket, but stops. He comes to a jump stop, a little off-balance, rises over Donovan Mitchell and splashes in the midrange jumper.

It is not that Durant is not comfortable with shooting the three-ball like seemingly every other player in the NBA, he prefers to take midrange shots. On the season, Durant is shooting just 36.7 percent from beyond the arc, his lowest three-point percentage since his third season in the league. Additionally, Durant is taking five three-point shot attempts, the sixth lowest mark of his career. He is taking one less three-pointer per game than he did last season. Durant is being more selective with his shot distribution from all over the court, but especially in the midrange game.

In the midrange area this campaign, Durant is 195-of-368, or 53 percent from that part of the floor. The two-time Finals MVP has the third most attempts from that area, trailing DeMar DeRozan with 408 attempts with a 39.5 percent success rate, and DeRozan’s teammate, LaMarcus Aldridge with 394 midrange shot attempts with a 42.1 percentage.

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry

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All three of these players are comfortable with taking shots inside the arc, an anomalistic thing to do in today’s NBA. But Durant is the best at this shot by a wide percentage margin. That is how you become the midrange master.

Other stars in the league that do not have as efficient and polished of a midrange game because they take more threes, include LeBron James, James Harden and Paul George. James is shooting 81-of-228 from beyond the arc, good enough for 35.5 percent, while in the midrange game, he is shooting 54-of-120, which 45 percent. Harden is shooting 37.4 percent from beyond the arc, or 274-of-733.

In the midrange area, the reigning MVP is shooting 28-of-61, 45.9 percent. MVP candidate, George is shooting 218-of-537, 40.6 percent from three-point territory. In the midrange game, George is shooting 106-of-252, or 42.1 percent. All three of these players are shooting more three-point shots than they are in the midrange area.

kevin durant, stephen curry, klay thompson

Durant’s two teammates, Curry and Thompson take more three-point attempts. Curry is shooting 44.4 percent from beyond the arc, 236-of-531, while shooting 63-of-136, 46.2 percent from the midrange area. Thompson is 186-of-419 from three-point land, while in the midrange area, he is 162-of-345, good for 47 percent. They are shooting more threes than midrange shots.

However, Kevin Durant is different than them. He is shooting 105-of-286 from beyond the arc. He is shooting 195-of-368 from the midrange. He shoots more midrange jumpers than he does three-point shots.

The one-dribble pull-up jumper is an art form that needs to be practiced with regularity in order to gain consistency. Durant has mastered this shot. His length and height make it virtually impossible to block this shot.

In the clip below, Durant hits a one-dribble pull-up jumper over the out-stretched hands of the 7’0″ Bosnian, Jusuf Nurkic. He elevates so high and the release of the shot is like the peak of a mountain, it will not get blocked that often.

This is a set play for Kevin Durant. He gives the ball up to Green, who is the playmaker in this situation. Durant sets a pindown screen for Curry, who gets switched on to Aminu and CJ McCollum, who was Curry’s man gets screened by Warriors center, Kevon Looney. This forces Nurkic to come out and contest the 17-foot jumper by Durant, which he splashes.

The midrange shot is Durant’s true art, every dribble, a paint stroke and every netted jumper, a splash of paint, while the opposing defenses in this comfort area is his canvas.

Durant has been an integral part to this all-time run Golden State is having, collecting two Finals MVPs, while helping the team win back-to-back titles in his first two years with the franchise. In his three seasons he has been with the Warriors, Durant is having his best year as a member of the team, averaging more points, assists and rebounds than he did in his previous two seasons with the team.

The Warriors will need Kevin Durant to be automatic from midrange and beyond if they hope to become only the third team in the modern NBA era to win three consecutive championships.