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Midrange messiah DeMar DeRozan morphs intoid-careerirk in re

ผู้เขียน:ความนิยม:เวลา:2022-11-23 【ใหญ่กลาง เล็ก

That, for a subset of fans, is their distilled understanding of basketball analytics. Never mind that the oeuvre of basketball analytics ranges far and wide, and the entire underlying point of it is to use information to win games, not to tell people from where to shoot. Never mind that Seth Partnowwrote an entire bookabout this whole false premise (Spoiler: The red wedding scene in Chapter 6 comes out of nowhere) and about the continued importance of midrange shots for the leagues best players.

Somehow, it still has been the main takeaway. Its unhelpful that the team and player most associated with analytics, the mid-2010sHouston Rocketsled byJames Harden, shot almost nothing but 3s and rim shots and featured perhaps the least watchable superstar in memory. But thats where we are.

Of course, there is an underlying kernel of truth in this idea, because the rules have made a 3-pointer a littletoovaluable. In reality, it should be worth 2.5 points or so, but that makes for some unwieldy entertainment and far too much math. So, three points it is which is 150 percent ofa regular field goal.

So if we give three points for a 23-foot shot and only two for a 15-foot shot, man, those 15-foot shots dont look like such a great bargain. For most players and at most times, they are not.

For instance,Steph Curryshoots 42.8 percent for his career from beyond the arc, which is equivalent to shooting 64.2 percent from inside.Nobodyshoots 64.2 percent on 2s unless hes a dunks-only rim runner; ergo, a Curry attempt from 3 is about the most valuable shot a team can conjure.

Thus, recent history has given us very few players who genuinely worried defenses with the threat of contested 2s away from the rim. And on the flip side, players who focused mainly on those shots without liberal dashes of 3 and rim in-between could only get a team so far.

For the first nine years of his career, that tenet held. DeRozan was a good player, but he was more of a floor raiser who could rescue stalled possessions by creating a halfway-decent look from 15 feet on demand. He took the majority of his shots from midrange and wasnt accurate enough to make it an overly threatening proposition from this space. His midrange and true shooting numbers show that, with him shooting in the mid-40s from midrange with true shooting numbers in the low-to-mid 50s (see table). Solid, but nothing that would make defenses quake in their boots.

However, something started to change when he went to San Antonio in 2018-19. In his second season there, his true shooting mark rose above 60.0 for the first time in his career. And while much of that owed to his getting to the rim 20 percent of the time and converting 74 percent, the midrange also saw an uptick. His final season with theSpurssaw fewer buckets at the rim and a true shooting percentage dip back below 60, but the midrange progress held (see table).

Still, DeRozan was 32 heading into this season, and Father Time is a cruel interloper. It seemed unlikely DeRozan could build any further on what happened with the Spurs, and even at that San Antonio-level of accuracy, his midrange-heavy deal was only so valuable. The question was more in the opposite direction: How much of those gains could he maintain in his 30s?

Well, it turns out he maintained all the gains. And then built on them. Substantially. Look at where the progression has gone this season hes cashing more than half his midrangers for the first time of his career, and his true shooting percentage is back to 60. (He was over before two tough shooting nights this week; all stats through Tuesday). This is a radically different equation from the Toronto years (see table):

DeRozan has only ramped up his efforts of late. With theBullsfielding a skeleton crew heading into the All-Star break, he put the team on his back and carried it to five consecutive wins. His play in the two losses preceding that streak was equally scintillating; all told, in seven games, he averaged 38.6 points per game on 66.8 true shooting.

He also broke Wilt Chamberlains record by scoring at least 35 points and making at least half his shots in eight straight games.Wilt Chamberlain!Nobody breaks Wilts records. These are video-game stats.

In the process of DeRozan doing all this, we come to the really interesting part: Hes the first player in a decade to turn the conventional wisdom regarding 3s vs. 2s on its head.

That crazy efficiency of those eight games? DeRozan did it while taking only 13 3s and 181 2s. This is not some 7-footer feasting at the rim, either; this is a 6-6 forward just shredding fools with craft and midrange shot-making.

Heres the thing about 3s: Its tough to create them in volume, especially the high-percentage, off-the-catch variety. Generating pull-ups from the foul-line area, on the other hand, is fish in a barrel for players with the size, handle and leaping ability to get them away. DeRozan, for instance, always could launch 2s in numbers.

Hes taking more of them than ever this season, but whats changed is his ability to make them. As noted above, this is the first time in his career hes made more than half, or even come close, which has suddenly made DeRozan a hugely valuable offensive weapon.

The other part is the insane frequency. An amazing 70 percent of DeRozans attempts this season are non-rim 2s, according to Cleaning The Glass. Its the highest proportion of a players attempts in the league by a considerable margin. And this isnt 70 percent of some random second options attempts; this is 70 percent of the leagues eighth-ranked player in usage rate. He is taking aphenomenalamountof long 2s.

To help you understand the sheer volume, heres the leaderboard of shots made from 10-to-19 feet. Ill list everybody who has made at least half as many shots as DeRozan. Here they are:

Thats it. Thats the list. Only five players in the entire league have even half as many midrange makes as DeRozan.

Wait, it gets better. You see, DeRozan isnt just a make-or-miss proposition on his middies. He also draws voluminous free-throw attempts, far above most midrange specialists, thanks to one of the best shot fakes in the game.

For most players, the biggest hidden negative of midrange shooting is the paucity of free-throw attempts. Not for DeRozan: He gets fouled on 17 percent of his shot attempts. Thats nearly the same as Harden.

Compare him to the other top midrange shooters and youll see the difference DeRozan takes a bigger chunk of his shots from midrange than all of them, yet also draws more fouls by a wide margin:

Those fouls are money too: DeRozan has made 86.4 percent from the line this season.

As a result, hes turning analytics on his head. DeRozan doesnt get to the rim a lot or shoot many 3s but his 59.9 percent true shooting on 31.8 percent usage nonetheless puts him in special company.

Only seven other players have a true shooting percentage greater than 59 and a usage rate over 30 in 2021-22, and they represent the leagues inner circle of super-duper stars:Nikola JokicJoel EmbiidGiannis Antetokounmpo, Curry,LeBron JamesTrae YoungandKevin Durant.

Those other seven players are the consensus six best players in the league and arguably the best pick-and-roll player in the league (Young); they all have broken the game, to some extent. Five of them are huge athletes with guards skills, while Young and Curry rain shots from anywhere inside half-court with pinpoint accuracy.

And then theres DeRozan who does it by walking defenders to 15 feet, getting a half-inch of space and either shooting just over the defenders fingertips or shot faking them out of their shoes.

Its not normal. In fact, its one of the rarest seasons inNBAhistory.

But it does offer one similarity that you might not have immediately considered. Here, let me show you a chart:

Player B, youve probably guessed by now, is DeRozan this season.

Player A? Thats Dirk Nowitzki in 2010-11.

Unbelievably, the 32-year-old version of DeRozan has morphed into the 32-year-old version of Nowitzki. That season, Nowitzki took his one-legged, midrange fadeaway to another level, clowning everybody in the playoffs (including an unforgettable barrage in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals againstOklahoma City) and leadingDallasto the championship.

DeRozan gets to the same results in a different way hes six inches shorter and much more likely to dribble into his midranger and his postseason outcome is uncertain in a crowded Eastern Conference. Nonetheless, hes having a Dirk-like impact on the Bulls offense. Chicago is third in the NBA in offensive efficiency, even while giving heavy minutes to several non-threatening players, and much of it owes to DeRozans midrange prowess.

This has also, not surprisingly, bled into another of his impact stats. One of the biggest criticisms of DeRozan through the Toronto and San Antonio years was that his points were empty calories; the team functioned fine without him. Actually, better than fine: DeRozans teams played better with him off the court in 10 of his first 12 seasons, often by wide margins. While there were some other factors at play (most of his teams had very good benches, for instance), this wasnt exactly an endorsement of his value (see chart)

This season, not so much: The Bulls score at a nearly league-leading rate with DeRozan on the court and turn into theOrlando Magicas soon as he checks out.

As we chug toward the postseason (another bugaboo on his rsum that DeRozan will be attempting to update), the emergence of Dirk DeRozan is one of the best and unlikeliest stories to track. Will he keep shooting like this? Will he take it up onemorelevel? Will he goJulius Randleon us in 2022-23? Will we get a Luddite dream NBA Finals of Phoenix versus Chicago, where its justDevin Bookerand DeRozan pulling up from 17 on every trip?

What I do know is that this is the most prolific stretch of midrange shot-making weve seen in at least a decade and that despite peoples assumptions about what analytics say (analytics could not be reached for comment), the ability to burn opponents repeatedly from this area is aproblem.Its just that very, very few players are good enough to do it.

Those who can do it, however, create impossible quandaries for opponents. Defensively, its far trickier to double-team DeRozan in his office just as Nowitzkis Dallas opponents discovered in 2010-11. On the other hand, DeRozans combination of accuracy, foul drawing and sheer volume turns the we want to force tough 2s ethos of most NBA defenses on its head. Hes the NBAsmost efficient scorerin isolations. Choose your poison.

Until further notice then, its Dirk DeRozan. In terms of pure shot-making, I never thought Id see anything quite like the heater Nowitzki went on in the spring of 2011. Amazingly, DeRozan is matching or exceeding it. The torch has been passed.

Partnow:DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young take leaps in player tiers

Harper:Is DeMar DeRozan the best one-on-one player in the league?

(Illustration: Wes McCabe /The Athletic; photo: Getty Images)

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John Hollingers two decades of NBA experience include seven seasons as the Memphis Grizzlies Vice President of Basketball Operations and media stints at ESPN.com and SI.com. A pioneer in basketball analytics, he invented several advanced metrics most notably, the PER standard. He also authored four editions of Pro Basketball Forecast. In 2018 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.Follow John on Twitter@johnhollinger

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