MJ EDUCATING YOUNG RIP “That’s the hardest play in the game of basketball to guard”

MJ EDUCATING YOUNG RIP “That’s the hardest play in the game of basketball to guard”

With advanced statistics becoming the focal point of the NBA, the mid-range jumper is becoming a lost art. Due to statistical gurus describing it as inefficient, what was the dominant shot in the league 20 years ago has now become NBA’s outcast as the game gravitates more and more to the three-point line.

We’ve seen many mid-range assassins. From Nowitzki and Kobe to Duncan and MJ, the NBA has always had guys who excelled at hitting shots inside 23 feet. One of those deadly mid-range shooters was Richard “Rip “Hamilton. This NBA champion has made the living shooting jumpers from mid-range. He was able to knock them down off the dribble or coming off the screens. He recently discovered that Jordan was the one who persuaded him in adding a mid-range shot to his arsenal, sharing a story to Bleacher Report about MJ explaining to him how it was the toughest play to defend while the two were playing together in the Washington Wizards.

“I have thousands of them. That was a kid getting the opportunity to play with the GOAT, the guy you looked up to as a kid. One that sticks out for me is playing against him in practice. People look at my mid-range game and say I have one of the best of all time, but a lot of that came off of being in the practices with MJ. I remember one time I was playing against him, and he took two hard dribbles to the basket and pulled up, and he was like ‘Rip, add that to your game. That’s the hardest play in the game of basketball to guard. And I was like, why? And he was like because as a defender they are backpedaling so he can’t jump to the highest point to block your shot. He’s always off-balance, and you’re always on-balance. People all across the league kept hitting me up like, ‘How did you get your medium-range game so good?’ From the tools of Michael Jordan. From the opportunity to be around him for the two years I was in Washington”

Richard Hamilton, via BR

MJ was probably the best guy to model your mid-range game after. Coming out of North Carolina, he was considered to be a questionable shooter. So what did he do? Jordan perfected shooting from a certain distance but also made sure that he was respectable from all areas of the floor. When comparing Jordan’s shot chart to the ones of today’s players, it’s impressive to see how diverse Michael’s scoring was. However, it was based on his mid-range game, which, other than being aesthetically beautiful, was incredibly efficient. In 1996-97 NBA season, Jordan led the league in FGA’s from 10 to 23 feet, while being 4th in the league in shot efficiency. Considering the volume of shots he took, Jordan was by far the most efficient mid-range scorer in the league. The only one who came close to him in terms of attempts was Mitch Richmond, but he only converted 42,1% of them compared to MJ’s 48,3%.

Despite many of today’s players modeling their games after MJ, there aren’t many players who base their games on jumpers from medium range. The stats also confirm the theory, given that DeRozan is leading the league in mid-range shot attempts with only 416. When combining FG% with the volume of shots each player has attempted, the best mid-range shooters in the league are Chris Paul and CJ McCollum. It is also worth noting that only 22 players have qualified for this list requiring more than 250 FGA’s from 10 to 23 feet. During the 1998-99 lockout season, when players have played fewer games than this regular season, 51 of them have attempted over 250 mid-range jumpers, proving that the skill of mid-range shooting is slowly fading.

Although the mid-range game is vanishing, it is still something you need to have on your team to win a title. The Raptors had it in Kawhi; The Warriors had it in KD and Splash Brothers. When the game slows down in the playoffs, it is crucial to keep your offense changeable and make defense cover all areas of the floor. If the team eventually keeps you from the 3 point line and manages to protect the rim successfully, it’s essential to have the ability to utilize the in-between game to reopen other areas on the floor. That still makes shooting jumpers from medium range a valuable skill in the league. It’s a skill that doesn’t guarantee you’ll win the title, but you can easily lose one without it.