Who says that the midrange is dead!? Over the last several years we have seen a trend of shooting threes at very high volume, because they are valued more than other jump shots. When the shooting percentages are factored in, it is clear that a wide open three is the best shot around in basketball because it has the highest return value. That’s why the midrange game has been on the decline, as teams have gotten used to hunting open threes and easy points at the basket. However, the art of the midrange shot simply cannot be ignored if a basketball team wants to win. It is crucial to have in the repertoire, because it can often be the key to unlocking certain defenses. Moreover, a good offensive team needs to be able to score from every part of the floor and keep defenses on their toes at all time. That’s exactly what the Phoenix Suns are doing this year. They currently have the 2nd best record in the NBA and are one of the biggest surprises of the season. What’s not surprising is how they got there. Chris Paul has revitalized yet another team in need of strong leadership, replicating his 2020 achievement with the Oklahoma City Thunder. As expected, the Suns have instantly become one of the best midrange teams in the league with a much slower pace to fit the style of their veteran point guard. In a league where every team is running and gunning, how is Phoenix so good with this old school approach?
For starters, the Suns have very good midrange shooters. Paul is one of the best all time midrange shooters, as he loves slowly dissecting defenses in the pick and roll until there is an open shot. For Paul, that is usually his signature fadeaway jumper around the free-throw line: 34.3% of his points come from the midrange, the most out of players who are averaging at least 26 minutes a game this season. Finding the right shot has been a quality of his for his entire career, and most of his teams were very successful playing this brand of smart basketball. He has a solid screener in Deandre Ayton this year and the two are one of the best pick and roll duos this season largely thanks to Paul’s ability to consistently hit midrange jumpers. Just look how patiently he weaves through the traffic in order to find separation for his favorite shot.
Even though it seems like a very difficult shot, I somehow have no doubt it is going in when Paul shoots it. Defenses share my opinion and that is what makes the Suns so special on offense. The spotlight is on Paul and Booker and stopping them from scoring, but Phoenix is a very unselfish team who loves moving it around until they get the right shot. After all, they are the best team in the league when it comes to assists per game, something that is not surprising when you have such a floor general on the team. So when defenses try to keep Paul or Booker from getting going, they make the right reads to connect their teammates with the basket.
Sure, having Chris Paul will definitely make you more of a midrange team. However, the Suns have multiple players who excel in this area. Devin Booker was always known for his sweet stroke, but his midrange game has always been better than his average outside shooting. Years and years of having the keys to the offense has led him to become one of the best pure scorers in the NBA, which comes in handy in the minutes without Paul on the court. Suns regularly run these kinds of isolation plays for Booker, who is usually unstoppable in situations like this:
Although the midrange is their main offensive power, the Suns have strengths all around that make them a dangerous team. They are the only ones alongside the Utah Jazz that are in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive rating. Phoenix is full of good two-way players like Bridges, Johnson, and Crowder who can defend and hit threes at a high level. Having so many options on offense results in them having the luxury to choose what is the best shot for them: The Suns are 2nd in field goal and 4th in effective field goal percentage in the NBA this season. Not bad for a team that is relying so much on such an “ineffective” shot. The midrange lives on!