Mid-range jumpers have become basketball pariahs since the rise of analytics, and not without reason. They’re still inefficient shots in aggregate, but not all mid-range shots are created equal.
NBA offenses are trying to put pressure on the front of the rim, which produces the most efficient shots in the game; dunks, layups, kick-out threes, and free throws. Defenses are trying to prevent those attempts and force the offense to take long, contested two’s instead. Sometimes the defense wins that battle, and it’s important to have players who can still produce when that happens.
Brandon Ingram has prioritized those shots instead of taking them as a last resort though, and it’s become a problem. Let’s take a closer look:
The “drop coverages” that I often refer to in my videos are how defenses cause offenses to take less-desirable attempts. The defensive big man hangs back in the paint as a perimeter defender fights over the top of a screen and puts pressure on the offensive player from behind, in both on-ball and off-ball situations. The offensive player who receives the screen will be open from mid-range for a brief moment — as his defender tries to recover from the screen while the defensive big too far away — so long as contact is made on the screen.
Those are good, open shots and Ingram should continue to take them. It’s reasonable to envision him making 50% of those particular mid-range attempts, which is enough to make them worth taking.
But Ingram ventures well beyond those clean looks and into the contested, break-rhythm jumpers that were a Kobe Bryant staple. In fact, he’ll often bypass those easier attempts in an ill-fated effort to challenge the big who’s lying in wait at the rim.
Maybe he becomes the type of guy who can hit fadeaway 17-footers with a defender draped all over him after two shot fakes with enough frequency where it becomes a good shot, but both he and the Lakers would benefit from him getting the basics of playing with LeBron James down first.