Gay a supporter of the midrange movement

Rudy-Gay-over-Marc-Gasol

No disrespect to Daryl Morey or MIT statisticians, but the midrange shot can be a reliable NBA tool. It’s not as easy as a layup or as valuable as a 3, but in the right hands, it can fill up the bucket.

“Rip Hamilton, Sam Cassell, there’s a lot of guys,” Rudy Gay spoke to Cowbell Kingdom on effective midrange shooters. “There’s other people who (you can) obviously look at and see how good their careers were. Doesn’t stop me from doing what I do. Obviously I’m a midrange shooter and I’ll continue to be. I got here like that and I’m going to continue to do it.”

Gay represents a dying breed. With the influx of analytics, NBA franchises have begun to shun the midrange game. Strict intermediate shooters like Stacey Augmon and Calbert Cheaney are a thing of the past.

Today, the motto is treys and finger rolls, and it’s being embraced by the Sacramento Kings’ D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. This season, the Bighorns have made an emphasis to abandon the midrange offense in favor of triples and drives to the basket in transition.

Yet, natural scorers like Gay, Kobe Bryant and LaMarcus Aldridge still swear by it. The midrange jumper is a staple to their style of play, but why?

“It’s only inefficient if you miss it,” Gay noted.

Truer words were never spoken. Gay has seen both sides of this coin, in his brief stint with the Toronto Raptors and his time in Sacramento.

Across the border, Gay frustrated observers with his willingness to settle for jumpers. The small forward logged 51 appearances with the Raptors, but bottomed out in his final 18, shooting 38.8 percent from the floor. When he was traded to the Kings on December 9, 2013, critics expected more of the same.

Then a light switched on in Gay’s right arm. For the rest of the 2013-14 season, the wing made 48.2 percent of his field goals. Gay shot 49.5 percent between eight and 16 feet and 35.3 percent between 16 and 24 feet, after hitting only 43.9 percent and 30.7 percent respectively in his Raptors career. The veteran ended the season averaging 20 points per game, which helped convince the Kings front office to sign him to a three-year, $40 million extension on November 16.

This season, his numbers have found an equilibrium. In 35 games, Gay is posting a career-high 20.8 points per contest, and 45 percent of his field goal attempts lie between eight and 24 feet. He’s shooting 46.6 percent within eight and 16 feet, and 32.3 percent in the 18-to-24 zone (the long two-pointer is another story).

gay sweet spot

Gay’s sweet spot from midrange (pictured above) seems to be the distance 10 to 14 feet away from the hoop, where he’s shooting 47.3 percent.

What’s more intriguing is that Gay’s jumper is most accurate when he’s on the move. The 28-year-old is converting 37 percent of his catch-and-shoot tries, but he’s making 61.9 percent of his pull-ups, 70 percent of his running jumpers, 62.5 percent of his fadeaways, 47.8 percent of his turnaround jumpers and 57.1 percent of his step-back jumpers. Such production is crucial for a volume scorer who depends on creating his own looks as often as Gay. Over two-thirds of his field goals this season have been unassisted.

Gay’s improvement since joining the Kings can also be attributed to his spike in successful finishes near the rim, but he’ll be first to tell you that the midrange jumper is his bread and butter. The All-Star candidate is out to make a point that the dreaded “no man’s land” is in fact alive and well.

Statistics courtesy of nba.com and basketball-reference.com

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.