kevin durant
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge are keeping the mid-range alive in Brooklyn

In the last few years, we have seen more and more reluctance from players to shoot in the area between the three-point line and restricted area. The thought process makes sense. Shoot the shots that yield either a higher point total or a greater chance of going in.

However, there are two guys currently keeping the dying industry of the mid-range alive. And they both happen to play for the same team — the Brooklyn Nets.

Easy Money Mid-Range

First, we’ll start off with Kevin Durant. Now everyone knows he is one of the most gifted three-level scorers in history but this season he has really flexed his scoring muscle. Despite being 33 years old and two years removed from a ruptured achilles injury, Durant currently looks like the best iteration of himself.

Where Durant has really found his success so far this season is in the mid-range. According to pbpstats.com, Durant has shot roughly 60 percent of his field-goal attempts this season from the mid-range. Breaking it down a bit further, his shot frequency from SMR (short mid-range) is 37.5 percent and his shot frequency from LMR (long mid-range) is 22.69 percent. For clarity, Pbp deems SMR as shots between 4-14 feet and deems LMR as shots between 14 feet and the three-point line. The 37.5 percent is currently the highest percentage he has taken on shots from SMR.

Pbpstats also shows that Durant is shooting 43-for-81 (53%) on SMR and 34-for-49 (69%) on LMR. Both percentages are currently career highs. Obviously, the more games Durant plays this season, those numbers will likely go down. However, these early returns should come to the delight of Nets fans and strike fear into opposing teams.

This type of success is also aided when you can do whatever you want on a basketball court. You’d be hard-pressed to find another player in the league that can get to their spot on the floor better than Durant.

Just take a look at this play here from Brooklyn’s last game against the Bulls. KD catches the ball at the top of the arc being guarded by Derrick Jones Jr. Now, Jones Jr isn’t a first-team All-Defense caliber defender but he’s no slouch either, especially with the length he possesses. Durant patiently assesses the situation, takes one dribble, hits his defender with his patented crossover, and then rises up for an automatic 16-foot jumper.

The Slim Reaper is currently shooting 61.8 percent on shots deemed “mid-range” by nbastats.com and has a league-leading 42 made field goals. For comparison the next closest player in mid-range field goal makes is Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan (32) and he has 12 more mid-range attempts (80) shooting to the tune of only 40 percent. KD also ranks third in shooting percentage for players with 35+ attempts from the mid-range.

Do you know who ranks first? That’s right, LaMarcus Aldridge.

LaMidRange

LaMarcus Aldridge has been a revelation for the Nets this season in his “second” stint with the team. Last season Aldridge’s time with Brooklyn was cut short after only five games due to a heart condition.

However, this year Aldridge has hit the ground running and has proven to be an important part of this Nets team. Now, if you thought what KD was doing in the mid-range was impressive, just wait until you get a load of LaMarcus.

Per nbastats.com, Aldridge is shooting a mind-boggling 27-for-36 (75%) on his mid-range attempts. The next closest player with 35+ attempts is Seth Curry at 62.2 percent (23-for-37).

Aldridge has a shot frequency in the mid-range of 38.55 in SMR and 33.73 on LMR according to pbpstats. He’s actually shooting a staggering 78.5 percent on LMR attempts (22-for-28) which have been deemed “bad shots” in this new era of basketball. Then again, they aren’t bad shots if you can hit them with the consistency that Aldridge possesses.

What’s been great about watching Aldridge in the mid-range this season is that he moves at his own pace. With over 14 years of experience in the league, LaMarcus isn’t going to get sped up by defenders. It’s like watching an old head work during 9 a.m. runs at the local YMCA.

Check here. After setting the screen for James Harden, LaMarcus pops out to the wing. After receiving the pass, he pump fakes to get Kelly Olynyk slightly off balance. Then it’s two strong dribbles toward the paint before hitting Kelly with some fancy footwork to create space for his jumper.

Aldridge’s work in the mid-range, although being highlighted in this article, should come as no surprise to anyone who’s watched him over the course of his career. He’s a guy that has shot over 40 percent on LMR attempts in 14 of his previous 15 seasons in the league.

Brooklyn’s offense certainly looks a lot different with James Harden still getting back into form and with the absence of Kyrie Irving. Although this isn’t the juggernaut offense from a year ago, Durant and Aldridge have been the closest form of a sure thing that we’ve seen in a while. The mid-range isn’t dead. At least in Brooklyn, it isn’t.