Back in my junior-high years, when I was playing AAU basketball, my coach always told me to only shoot three-pointers and lay-ups. He said that long two-pointers and mid-range jumpers were the most inefficient shot in basketball, and — being a relatively small, relatively non-athletic kid who could shoot pretty well — I should either shoot for three points or attack the rim and try to get to the free-throw line.
It made complete sense at the time, and that way of thinking has clearly taken over the NBA.
NBA teams attempted a record 44,583 three-pointers last season, and the league saw its first 3-point based offensive team — the Orlando Magic, of course — reach the NBA Finals. As the statistical revolution continues in professional basketball, teams have begun to realize that the highest percentage shot is a free throw, followed by a two-point shot at the rim, followed by a three-pointer.
As the NYT story pointed out, you have to shoot 60 percent on mid-range jumpers to equal the same output of a team that shoots 40 percent from three-point range. If there’s one player on the Orlando Magic who symbolizes this ideal, it’s Ryan Anderson.
Anderson, a 6-foot-10 power forward, has more or less abandoned anything not at the rim or behind the arc. Only 13 percent of Anderson’s shots this season are in the 3-point circle but away from the rim, and only 8 percent of his shots are two-pointers outside the paint. Anderson has embraced Orlando’s offensive strategy, and that’s a big reason the Magic have been able to cope with the absence of Rashard Lewis. And it’s also a big reason Anderson will continue to earn minutes even when Lewis returns.
Ryan Anderson shot selection, 2009-10 At Rim: 11-20, 50 percent <10 feet: 2-3, 67 percent 10-15 feet: 0-2, 0 percent 16-23 feet: 0-3, 0 percent Threes: 15-34, 44.1 percent Whether it’s by personal choice, coaching instruction or a little bit of both, Anderson doesn’t care about the lost art of the mid-range jumper. His ability to finish at the rim and shoot from deep — and nothing in between — is a big reason the Magic insisted he be included in the Vince Carter-Courtney Lee trade.