Last week, the folks at WinnersView.com released a short video highlighting CJ McCollum’s midrange wizardry during the 2016-17 NBA season. They aren’t the first to take notice of McCollum’s growing offensive repertoire, particularly his incredible shooting from the analytics version of Tarturus— the midrange— but the video is succinct and more up to date.
McCollum is shooting a robust 50.4 percent between the paint and the 3-point line, which is the best in the NBA (for qualified players, 150 attempts). This continues the ‘trend away from the trend’ that is McCollum is taking and making more of the most inefficient shot, analytically speaking, in the league.
This is something that Zach Lowe of ESPN touched on back in January, discussing the difference between threats and weapons on the court:
In the NBA, there are threats, and there are weapons. A threat keeps a defense on its toes. They worry about it, but they don't change their whole scheme to account for it. They warp everything for a weapon. Nikola Vucevic's midrange shot is a threat. Nowitzki's is a weapon.
McCollum has weaponized an allegedly inefficient shot. He needs almost no space to stop on a dime, snap into that straight up-and-down balance, and rain fire. Keeping up with McCollum around a pick -- being almost on his hip -- isn't good enough unless you can reach around him, Kawhi Leonard-style, and contest his shot from behind.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, Blazer’s Edge editor Eric Griffith asked McCollum what he was most looking to improve upon. McCollum answered with “efficiency.”
McCollum’s answer is a bit odd considering where he gets so much of his offense from, so let’s take a second to visualize.
McCollum doesn’t take or make much from the corners, and he’s hovering around league average near the rim. Meanwhile, he’s taking and making the proverbial metric ton of shots from midrange.
While it flies in the face of analytical efficiency, if a player can take a shot worth 2-points and convert it 50 percent of the time, that’s worth exploring. Especially if you consider that this shot is one that defenses are often okay with conceding.
WinnersView also shines a spotlight on McCollum’s three-point marksmanship (above 40 percent), and elevates him to the status of “one of the best offensive players in the NBA” along the way. What do you think? Has McCollum elevated himself into the upper stratosphere of scorers in the NBA? Can efficiency be in the eye of the beholder, and does the midrange game still have a future?