LeBron James had to smile a bit following Miami’s Game Three victory. Much like it would for Game Four, James got appropriate help from one of the “super friends” to buoy his team to a big home victory in the Eastern Conference Finals. In Game Four, it was Chris Bosh.
James though had a reason to laugh and smirk a bit after Dwyane Wade’s 23-point, 9-for-16 shooting performance. Wade did something pretty rare for him that game. He made two of his three 3-point attempts, marking just the third and fourth 3-pointers of his postseason and just the 22nd time he has done that in his Playoff career.
Having a shooting guard that is not a great 3-point shooter — Wade is a career 28.9 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season and 32.1 percent 3-point shooter in the Playoffs — goes against the current trend in the NBA.
The league has fallen in love with analytics which values 3-point shots and layups as the most efficient shots in the game. It eschews the mid-range jumper as too low percentage to take while valuing layups (the highest percentage shot on the floor) and 3-pointers (which have the added bonus of being worth three points instead of two). Teams have been built around this philosophy.
What has become clear in the Playoffs since the analytics movement took wind is that there is still some value in the mid-range jumper. Teams that can hone in on every team’s strengths and take away the 3-pointer. Trips to the rim and shots from beyond the arc are much harder to come by.
That is where having players like Wade and Spurs guard Tony Parker can pay huge dividends. When they get chased off the 3-point line, they are actually entering their scoring zone.
Take a look at Wade’s shot chart and stats from this postseason:
Wade is a surprisingly solid 32 for 80 on mid-range jumpers this postseason, according to NBA.com/stats. That is an incredibly high rate and, as you can see, he is above the league average on mid-range jumpers in the Playoffs.
Wade has always been a player who looked to attack the basket off the dribble or through curls. He is great at using his speed to keep defenders off balance and create room for his jump shot.
Tony Parker’s shot chart tells a similar story.
Parker’s shot chart is much more colorful as he is at about the league average on mid-range jumpers as far as percentages go. But you can see the shot distribution is mostly in the middle of the floor — between the 3-point line and the paint. NBA.com/stats has Parker shooting 45 for 107 on mid-range jumpers, an overall percentage higher than Wade’s.
As Bill Barnewall of Grantland wrote back in April, the Spurs worked with Parker on refining his jump shot but one of the keys to Parker’s overall success is that he shies away from taking 3-pointers, making and taking only enough of them to keep defenses honest.
Parker is 7 for 19 from beyond the arc this postseason and is a career 31.6 percent 3-point shooter in the regular season and 30.6 percent in the Playoffs. The 3-pointer is not part of his game. Yet, he continues to be one of the best players and best offensive generators in the league at this stage of the Playoffs.
He and Wade have largely done this without the 3-pointer. Much like LaMarcus Aldridge’s explosion in the first round, both Parker and Wade are using the threat of their mid-range jumpers to get to the basket and hitting the shot when it is open. Who cares if it is not for three?
For these players, analytics be damned. The mid-range jumper is alive and well.