Although the trend has been relentless toward both three-pointers and shots around the basket, the midrange is not completely dead, especially as the alternative when defenses try to deny everything else.
Round 16 had lots of intriguing games even if it did not have a clear-cut headliner. The matchup between Anadolu Efes and FC Barcelona exceeded expectations, with Efes handing Barcelona its second loss in as many rounds. For Efes, this game felt like a return to normalcy. Shane Larkin bounced back from having scored 4 points in consecutive games to posting 23 points in 31 minutes, sparking what became Barcelona’s first losing streak of the season.
Zalgiris Kaunas hosting FC Bayern Munich was perhaps the most intriguing game heading into the round, given each team’s unique style of play. Ranked 16th and 18th in three-pointers attempted per game, respectively, Zalgiris comfortably leads the league by shooting 44% from beyond the arc while Bayern has attempted 275 two-point jump shots, 105 more than any one other EuroLeague team. Indeed, no EuroLeague team since the 2010-11 season has exceeded Bayern’s 17.2 two-point jump shots per game.
In a 74-73 loss to Zalgiris, Bayern shot 7 of 20 from deep but only 3 of 17 on two-point jumpers. Zalgiris made just 6 of 15 from beyond the arc and 4 of 12 on midrange jumpers, more than its usual volume. One of those midrange shots, however, was Marius Grigonis’s pull-up game-winner from just above the foul line.
The rise of the three-point shot over the last decade has been well documented. The additional efficiency and spacing it provides have shaped modern offenses.
The graph above tracks the number of shots team have attempted per game by distance in meters during the 2020-21 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season. Through Round 16, fully 40% of all shots in the EuroLeague come from behind the 6.75 meter three-point line. Just 8% are taken from more than a half-meter beyond that arc.
Inside the arc, more than half of two-point attempts occur within one meter of the basket, accounting for 32% of all shots taken. There are two minor upticks in the frequency of midrange shots: one between 2 and three-meters – roughly the location of the blocks where players catch the ball when posting up – and one around 5 meters – the distance marked by the “elbows” at the extremes of the free throw line.
Those two spots and the mid-paint are where teams that attack the midranges aggressively tend to make their marks. Bayern, for example, makes attempts from those locations at a rate of 7% above the league average.
The teams noted above lead the EuroLeague in the percentage of shots they attempt either from beyond the 6.75-meter arc or from inside of 2.5 meters. Not only have 82% of all shots this season been taken from those ranges, but no team attempts less than 72% of its shots from those spots.
While midrange attempts may be disappearing from modern basketball, there’s still value in a team’s ability to take what the defense gives and, more and more, that tends to be two-point jumpers. They may not be the most efficient shots, but as the end of the Zalgiris-Bayern game showed, sometimes they’re the ones that come available in key moments.
Looking Ahead to Round 17
With AX Armani Exchange Milan taking on CSKA Moscow, FC Bayern Munich heading to FC Barcelona, and Anadolu Efes Istanbul hosting Real Madrid, Round 17 has multiple games that will impact the top half of the standings as the 2020-21 campaign reaches it midpoint.