The rise of advanced analytics has had many effects on the NBA, but one of the most notable has been the increasing irrelevance of mid-range scoring. As teams try to maximize efficient shots, three-pointers and at-rim attempts have become the ideal end-products for almost all audiences. There are somehow hold-outs, to be sure, and plenty of players remain effective while still relying on 18-foot jumpers. For the most part, though, the league is heading away from that style.
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However, one player who excels in the mid-range thinks it's just a matter of time before it comes back into style. Boston Celtics wing Evan Turner, soon-to-be an unrestricted free agent, says it's the future of basketball. From an interview with Maurice Peebles of Complex.com (via SLAM):
But, to a modern NBA fan or writer, having a big role on a playoff team as someone with a questionable three-point shot seems easier said than done. With the league trending towards more threes—and with the Golden State Warriors breaking the all-time regular season wins record mostly due to their propensity for the long ball—does a Swiss Army Knife, do-it-all type like Turner still fit in?
"I want to speak on that, actually,” Turner says as an irritated smirk creeps across his face. “People say, ‘You can’t shoot the three.’ But I can defend, I can pass, rebound, score. You got guys that all they can do is shoot and nothing else. Like, how a-- backwards is that? Only in America can you be a lacrosse player and judge basketball. Or you’ve never played basketball and say, ‘Yeah, I was working on the stock market—[stuff] wasn’t working so now I’m in the NBA judging talent.’ [The media] can write stuff on something they have no clue about.
“The future is in the mid-range. The mid-range is where the money’s at, man. I think the three-point shot opens up the court and everything like that, but MJ and all those great players made all of their money out of the mid-range. So I’m not sorry for that at all. Evan M. Turner. For sure, ‘M’ stands for mid-range. Anywhere within 15 feet is cash. I’ll try to get better at threes, but that’s my game.”
Turner's argument for himself is full of logical errors, including the jump from talking about three-point specialists to lacrosse players and using the examples superstars of prior eras to claim that he can thrive now. The best case for Turner is that he can do lots of things on a court reasonably well, from facilitating to rebounding to, yes, scoring inside of 15 feet. He's not likely to morph into a star any time soon, but the Celtics found plenty of use for him just the same.
In a broader sense, though, Turner could very well be correct that the mid-range will be a major part of the future NBA. The league doesn't tend to stick with any one trend for too long, because coaches and players are usually sophisticated enough to solve it eventually. Role players like Turner and Shaun Livingston have shown that a steady diet of mid-range shots can still work for particular players, and it's possible that a team will eventually be able to figure out some combination of scoring that allows the mid-range to be a regular option for a contender. I can't really say how that will happen, because the whole point is that it will be a very thoughtful innovation. But it's not as if the mid-range has disappeared forever.
For now, though, it's probably best to think of Turner's reliance on mid-range shooting as a talent that does not easily fit into all teams. He's not a good enough player to define a system, and a perimeter player without a steady three-point shot can often screw with a team's spacing. Turner can still be valuable, just in spite of his lack of outside shooting more than because of it. His time could eventually come. It just may be when he's already retired.
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