Unless your name is Dirk or LaMarcus, you should probably stay away from the dreaded mid-range.

Demar Derozan lives off the mid-range shot — he always has and he always will. As long as Derozan is a Raptor, the offense will continue feature a steady dose of “inefficient” twos. That’s just a simple fact.

Before I go on, I’d like to state my personal stance on the mid-range shot. As a general principle, I think that offenses should try to minimize shots from the mid-range area (outside of the paint, inside of the arc). However, I’m aware that the game of basketball is a elaborate system subject to the wills of ten different players, three referees, two coaches and a whole bunch of luck, which makes reallocating possessions to more “optimal areas” — chiefly at the rim and from beyond the arc — a difficult task. Three-pointers and layups are not generated out of thin air — oftentimes they require a double-team in the post, some penetration into the paint, smart off-ball cutting — which necessitates the existence of a mid-range threat if for nothing more than to serve as a decoy. Basically, I think that the mid-range should be a means to an end, not the ends itself. In my ideal offense, there’s a LaMarcus Aldridge-type establishing his presence in the no-fly zone, soaking up the attention of the defense, thereby creating opportunities on the perimeter and interior.

Unfortunately, Derozan is no Aldridge.

I really don’t mean to pile on Demar. He’s the number one option in this offense, and his name is circled on the opposing team’s whiteboard. Demar plays a ridiculous amount of minutes (currently 6th most in total minutes played) and he’s probably over-worked most of the time, which could potentially explain his recent fourth quarter lapses. In fact, I actually feel bad for Derozan — he works his ass off to do a job we know can’t, yet we criticize him when he fails. He’s the central character in a Joseph Heller basketball novel (I would definitely read that) .

However, it’s really difficult to get past Derozan’s over-reliance on the mid-range game, especially given his athletic talents and his ability to draw fouls en route to the basket (6th in free-throw attempts per 36 minutes amongst guards). Just as a reference, here’s Demar’s shooting breakdown as compared to a fellow shooting-guard in James Harden. Guess whose eFG% is higher (hint: it’s Harden, and it’s not even close).

shot plots

Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, considering that “The Beard” is one of the league’s best offensive players, but it’s worth nothing that both players use up exactly the same percentage of their team’s possessions at 27.5%, yet Harden scores more points more efficiently, mostly by shooting two-thirds of his field goal attempts from the most optimal areas on the floor (threes and restricted area). Don’t believe me? Compare their shooting percentages across different shot locations. Derozan isn’t nearly as good at shooting the three, but his percentages from everywhere else is relatively comparable.


And here’s the thing with Derozan’s mid-range shooting — most of the shots he takes from the mid-range are of his own volition. It’s not that defenses are taking away his other options, he’s simply settling most of the time.

The large majority of Derozan’s jumpers are a product of two plays — spot-ups and curling off screens. I can’t fault Derozan for the spot-ups because they’re by design, but Casey and Nurse need to seriously rethink their strategy because Derozan is not a good spot-up shooter. He ranks 163rd in the NBA at 0.92 points scored per spot-up attempt, which is partially skewed by his below-average three-point shooting, but he’s equally as bad inside the arc where he shoots a paltry 38.3%. The play involves a big (usually Amir, who is an excellent screen-setter) setting a pin-down, thus freeing up Demar for a shot.

The remainder of Derozan’s jumpers are pull-ups where he’s the ball-handler curling around a screen. To be fair, Derozan is almost always “open” on these shots because the defense is willing to concede these looks, but there’s good reason for that — Demar is not good at shooting from the mid-range! Demar is far more successful when he chooses to attack the basket, but opposing defenses purposely have their bigs drop back to cover the drive, which makes attacking a more difficult and exhausting option. And this is not to say that that Derozan doesn’t attack, because he certainly does, he just settles for the jumper far too often.

Again, I’d like to preface that these problems aren’t entirely on Demar. For example, defenses usually ICE sideline screen-and-rolls, and given Johnson and Valanciunas’ lack of shooting ability (I’m not counting Amir’s slow-mo catapult as the ability to shoot), the Raptors are really ill-prepared for this defensive tactic.

In the play below, Bradley shades Demar, takes away the middle and forces Demar to step inside the arc. Once this happens, Demar is basically left with two options; shoot the jumper, or kick it back out to Amir and reset. The Raptors could counter this tactic with a jumpshooting big-man, but Patterson and Demar rarely converge on these types of plays.

Regardless of who’s to blame, the bottom line is that Demar simply launches too many mid-range shots. He has attempted the third most field goals from the mid-range, which is more than the likes of Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Let that sink in — more than Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony! Only Nowitzki and Aldridge have attempted more shots from the mid-range, and as I mentioned earlier, Derozan is no Aldridge.

And here’s the rub — Derozan is no Aldridge because his mid-range game doesn’t open the floor for his teammates. When Demar curls off a pin-down, he’s not opening up lanes for cutters. When Demar pulls up off a ball-screen, he doesn’t draw double-teams. If Demar’s shots aren’t going in, and they’re also failing to create positive externalities for the rest of the offense, there’s no reason to continue with this strategy.

Is there a solution? I’d like to think so. First off, the Raptors coaching staff should probably consider reorienting the offense. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the Raptors lack a consistent post threat, and they only have three capable ball-handlers (Lowry, Derozan, Vasquez), which makes shot-creation a challenge. However, why not turn some of Derozan’s pull-ups into pick-and-rolls for Lowry and Amir, or throwing it into the post for Valanciunas? It can’t hurt to try.

At the same time, it’s also on Derozan to be more aggressive. His play-making has improved from years past, and he’s posting a career high in assists per game, but he needs to continue to work for better looks. Derozan shoots 57% at the rim, and 78.5% from the line, which translates to 1.14 points per shot or 1.57 points per two free throws. That’s far better than the 0.78 points he scores per mid-range attempt. He doesn’t have to cut out the jumper entirely, he just needs to shoot it less, and use the other weapons in his arsenal more.

Perhaps shifting around a couple possessions here and there might only result in a few of extra points, but those few points usually represent the difference between winning and losing, or in Demar’s case, potentially making or missing the All-Star team.

Statistics courtesy of NBA stats, basketball-reference and Synergy Sports. Video for gifs courtesy of NBA stats

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42 Responses to “DeRozan’s Mid-Range Fetish”

    • Andrey

      Rudy’s defensive numbers have gone off a cliff in Sac… his rebound % is down (career low), his stl % is down (career low), his block % is down (send worst of his career) and his DRtg has taken a huge hit (career low).

  1. Ds

    Again, the same thing as with Rudy, it is not the player’s fault. Coach puts them in these spots (you think the 5-man unit comes up with the “curl” play time and again?) and coach needs to correct these issues. I would love for a couple of these shots to go to Lowry or to Valenciunas. Chances are the value of the shot would be better than 0.78 points.

    Also, one thing that doesn’t show up in the Harden/DeRozan comparison is that Harden plays in a fast-paced offence (8th in pace), whereas the Raptors play a very slow and methodical offence, which makes every point scored a grind.

    • DDayLewis

      Your point about the difference in pace is valid, but some of that is attributable to harden’s unstoppable euro step which makes him unstoppable in the open court. Conversely, DeRozan’s handles aren’t nearly as good, so he prefers to operate in the half court

  2. DanH

    Great article. Was just having a debate about this on another forum, and you’ve framed my side of it perfectly.

  3. Nilanka15

    Nice writeup.

    Personally, I like DeRozan’s pullup foul line jumper (it seems like it’s automatic), but that shot isn’t necessarily defined as “mid range”. He definitely needs to reign in his trigger-happy-ness….especially in the 4th quarter.

    Like you mentioned, if we had a true low-post threat, our offense would be that much smoother in general. Unfortunately for us, it’ll be a while before Jonas becomes that threat (if at all).

      • Nilanka15

        Ok, so what seemed like “automatic” bucket, only happens 44.4% of the time.

        The moral of the story: DeRozan can’t shoot from most places on an NBA floor.

        Side Note: The discrepancy between the left and right low blocks is startling. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason for it.

        • OldSkoolCool

          Actually it is easier for a right handed shooter to shoot from the left block than it is from the right block. (from post ups) This is due to easier foot work since you are leading with your strong leg and you only have to rotate your body 90 degrees, whereas on the right block you have to do a full 180 and are on your less coordinated leg

        • Mark

          This is a guess, but I’m thinking it’s comfort level with footwork on his fadeaways. I’m the same way, I find it much easier to fade to from that side of the floor because you can get your shooting arm square to the basket even if your feet/body aren’t square from that side, while to do the same from the right side requires you to bring your arm across your body, necessitating that either your feet be more square or that you square yourself in mid-air by by planting on that right foot and twisting as you go up. Also, I like run-on sentences.

          • Nilanka15

            Good points. Had a brain fart, and was only thinking jump shots when looking at the shot chart.

  4. MP

    he needs to be like Rip Hamilton, he made a career out of the midrange, let’s be honest, DeRozan can’t shoot further than 18 feet with consistency. you can dominate that way, wade is good out there as well. He also gets stripped alot, he needs to get stronger there. Luol Deng, uses the ‘rice’ exercise, maybe derozan should too.

  5. Mark

    Just wanted to add this little tidbit:

    Since The Rudy Gay trade, the Raps record when DeRozan takes 20+ shots: 2-5
    When he takes 19 or fewer: 11-3

    Now obviously 20 is an arbitrary number and you can make the case he was forcing shots because the team wasn’t playing well and he felt he needed to step up, but forcing shots in those situations is the LAST thing you want to do. The Raps (or any team for that matter) are at their best when the shot distribution is spread around, the ball is moving and the players are working for easy, uncontested shots.

    • DDayLewis

      Good point! I think teams are scheming for Derozan by letting him shoot while covering everyone else

  6. robertparrish00

    It would be great to have some stats on shooting percentages after a certain number of passes on offence. Hate to say it, but seemed like the lakers and bobcats book on the Raps offence was let/encourage DD take long range 2’s and as soon as he was 5 ft in from the 3 pt arch, send a double.

  7. Akashsingh

    I think the problem with derozan is he doesn’t have the talent look at his godawful shooting percentage he only brings scoring to the table and is mediocre at it at best, the best solution we can hope for is some idiot gm thinks he is the next James harden (who has a much better fg% by the way, and is also more clutch) and takes him off our hands. Nice guy, but he sucks

    • Akashsingh

      One might argue that derozan improves every year and it is just a matter of time before he becomes a perennial Allstar, but in my opinion the law of diminishing returns applies here. Derozan was extremely young and raw when he entered the league in 2009. Meaning he had tons of things to improve on. Can you name any players who have substantially increased their level of play after five years in the league other than Lebrun who was a superstar to begin with? I don’t like those chances for detox an

  8. ibleedpurple

    First of this was a great write up Will. As far as enjoying basketball blogs, I can’t say that I’m a fan of blogs that feature a heavy use of analytics but when incorporated correctly the use of analytics adds positive value to the reading experience. I particularly enjoyed the DD vs. JH breakdown. Its hard for Raptor fans to realize that one of their own players is inefficient but when you make a cold comparison between DD and one of the league’s most inefficient players and DD comes out with the short end of the stick…that’s when it starts to sink in. I have no doubt that DD would be a big time contributor as a second or third piece on a quality team but no matter what the Raptors try, he will never be able to handle the load as a primary scorer. Given MU’s history I don’t foresee the team being completely dismantled rather I see him looking to bring in a more efficient primary scorer…

    ….we need a big win tonite.

    • DDayLewis

      Thanks! I realize that a big stats report is hard to read sometimes. That’s why guys like Zach Lowe who can effectively support his observations with statistics get the big bucks.

    • Dr.Scooby

      “Its hard for Raptor fans to realize that one of their own players is inefficient but when you make a cold comparison between DD and one of the league’s most inefficient players and DD comes out with the short
      end of the stick…that’s when it starts to sink in.

      Well said

  9. TM

    You sort of acknowledge the fact that you can’t just always manufacture shots in the most “optimal” areas in the paint and behind the arc. I’m a fan of breaking down shot charts and incorporating analytics into the assessment of certain players, but using it as the crux of any argument that doesn’t more thoroughly give context is misleading and misinformed imo. What I mean by that is, the mid-range jump shot is not actually the “worst” of all shots as all the analytics heads are making it out to be because ones ability to score in the mid range typically affects their ability to get open looks from beyond the arc as well as at the rim. Take a deep breath and hear me out.

    If you aren’t willing to take mid range jump shots as a long range shooter then defenders will run you off the 3 point line without any fear of a pump fake, dribble drive into an open rhythm 18-15 footer. Plenty of shooters in the league simply don’t have the handle to get all the way to the tin, but having an effective mid range jump shot helps out their 3 point shooting by way of making defenders close out responsibly. This particular article is about Demar Derozan, nobodies idea of a dead eye or volume 3 point shooter, so this point doesn’t resonate with him but certainly does for plenty of other players. What does apply to Demar is the fact his handle, though very much improved from his first couple seasons in the league, is still not great. I’d even go so far as to describe it as average with most of his improvement due to increased strength and garnering more calls when he gets hacked in the lane. You can’t even begin to compare Harden and Derozan because their skill sets are so different based on Harden’s ball on a string handle which keeps defenders off him allowing for open looks (see: 3’s) and when they try and close he is quick and gifted enough with ball in hand to get all the way to the basket and avoid help. Not that I’m condoning iso-ball, but Demar is simply incapable of beating his man off the dribble on a consistent basis to get all the way to the tin. What allows him to it at the current (relatively successful) rates that he exhibits now, in my humble opinion, has to do with the fact that he’s willing to shoot (and hit) his mid range jump shot. Does he knock it in as frequently as he could/should? No. Not even close. But if you don’t crowd and challenge him he will hit it, and when you over extend he can get into the lane now with an improved handle. Different aspects of people’s games typically affect the other, and his over reliance on the mid range is frustrating, but if he wasn’t willing to launch from there so frequently I’m not so sure he’d have as much success getting to the tin.

    If he takes another leap next year (since im not convinved he’s ever going to become a reliable 3 pt shooter at the elbows or top of the arc) I hope he simply focuses on being a brutally efficient mid range scorer with the ability to also finish above the rim. Granted, most of the top mid range shooters in the game have traditionally been PF’s working off screen and roll action within the flow of a well balanced offense (Aldridge now, Garnett in his day, Elton Brand was deadly there, Carlos Boozer, Karl Malone, and plenty of other role players stuck in the league on the merits of their mid range abilities), but there are plenty of guards who have either dominated or carved out long and productive roles while relying primarily on the mid range. Michael Jordan’s most dominant area was working the mid range of the court, though I’m not comparing him and Demar, just saying if you can either set up your drive with a mid range jump shot, or vice versa, it plays a central role in your arsenal. RIP Hamilton is the most common modern era guard associated with almost solely relying on his ability to hit mid range jumpers off curls, pin downs and staggered screens. Detroit geared a lot of their sets around that action and RIP either stroked open looks, or swung the ball to rolling screeners or open wings when the defense collapsed on him. I see Demar getting better with his passing and vision day by day, and personally wish he would altogether abandon his efforts to become a 3 point threat and instead focus on become a more EFFICIENT mid range scorer. Perhaps focusing on corner 3’s for when he is not the primary read on a particular play. I think he can make it as a big piece to a winning team, and still rely on his mid range game (not just on curls, screens and pin downs but also in the high post) while scoring in the high teens instead of being relied upon as the top dawg. It’s so in vogue to criticize the mid range shots certain guys take now, but not too long ago it was considered the bread and butter of a well rounded offensive repertoire.

    • DDayLewis

      Well said! I agree with most of your sentiments here. Demar’s handle does need to improve (and I agree about the unfair comparison to Harden, whose Euro-Step is killer), as well as his shooting from beyond the arc, but he’s young and hardworking, which means there’s reason to believe he can improve.

      If anything, I just want everyone to take this away from the article: “In fact, I actually feel bad for Derozan — he works his ass off to do a job we know can’t, yet we criticize him when he fails”

    • Giselle.

      OMG this is the best post I have ever read on this site so far. You nailed EVERYTHING right on the head. Couldn’t agree more with everything you said. I’ve been saying that Demar’s lack of handle (even though it’s improved a lot from his first couple of years) is a big reason why he takes so many mid range shots. His lack of three point shooting is another reason as well. He can’t get anywhere he wants to on the floor like Harden can because he lacks a good handle. And the part where you said he only really gets to the basket at a decent clip because he’s a threat from the mid range is so spot on. If you give Demar space and bait him into taking the mid range he doesn’t have to handle to get to the basket anyway like Harden can so he’s then forced to take that shot. This is why Demar isn’t a number one option. He would be an amazing second or third option but in Toronto we always try and make second options number one options and it becomes a mess for us. I.e. Chris Bosh, Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani and now Demar. Chris was obviously the best out of the four but we REALLy need to get an actual number one option for once for us to be successful.

  10. asifyouknow

    I guess the new basketball is in full force, a player only needs two offensive skills, one is a dash to rim the and the other is a shot from downtown.
    That is actually what the new generation of players( coming out of college) have learned. The mid-range shot is dead because the “NEXT GEN..” of forwards can’t shoot, all they want to do is GO TO THE RIM.
    Except for Europeans they still got seven footers who can shot a three. I’m glad DeMar still shooting that MJ type shot.

    • DDayLewis

      Difference is, MJ probably shot 50% from the midrange. You only get a certain number of possessions per game. There’s a big difference between Demar using 10 opportunities per game from midrange and converting them into points at 40 FG%, whereas 10 from MJ at 50%.

  11. Ian Reynolds

    One thing that could fix a little bit of the issue is seen in that first gif. Amir is a great screener, but with that whole left side of the floor available, Demar jogs straight out and takes a shot a step inside the 3pt line, the worst possible shot from that play.

    Option 1) Rather than taking a long 2, he could have stepped further out, taking a 3 with more space.
    Option 2) There was a lot of room for him to drive the lane should he have curled hard off of Amir, or should Bass have picked up Demar, Amir would have been free to roll towards the net being covered by a guy a couple inches shorter than him, while moving toward the net.
    Option 2a) If Amir sets that screen a little farther down, Demar is wide open and possibly ends up causing a switch, due to Green being pinned so deep.
    Option 3) The more difficult option, but a possibility, would be cutting much harder toward that screen and then diving toward the hoop for a lob, either from Lowry, or from Amir on a faked handoff.

    These are all armchair QB type notes, but Demar does take too many looks from midrange, obviously. I don’t know if he lacks the awareness to see his options, because while his passing has improved his handle hasn’t, or if it’s a scheming thing and Casey needs to tweak where these plays are taking place.

    I’m pretty on record about liking him but thinking he makes way too much, but I’m also worried now about his shooting percentages dropping, leading teams to say fine, take that 17 footer, rather than pressuring him hard.

  12. asifyouknow

    Just watched the replay of the Hornets game …Honestly his shots are not much different then usual (a few bone headed ones as always) The guy was just missing shots, if he would of made a few of those this conversation would not be happening. But I guess this is what us fans do…lol

    • DDayLewis

      This isn’t a reaction piece. It’s a commentary on a constant throughout Demar’s career.


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