The Toronto Raptors have changed their shot distribution under new head coach Nick Nurse and it’s led to an interesting offensive philosophy.
While most teams at all levels of competitive basketball have typically encouraged their bad shooters to move closer to the basket, it’s entirely possible that Toronto has a new method that suggests the exact opposite might make more sense.
Utah Jazz announcer David Locke presented his theory during a recent podcast (via Locked On NBA):
“I think they’re onto something in the moneyball realm that’s different than the rest of the NBA. My quick thesis on this is that they are only letting their good shooters take mid-range shots and their bad shooters take threes, which is a complete flip from how it used to be.”
Locke said that when he asked Nurse about this, the Raptors coach seemed to react as if the speculation was fairly accurate. A long distance shot taken by a decent shooter has nearly the same value as a mid-range shot from a skilled shooter when following this philosophy.
That’s because it is worth more for someone shoot 34.0 percent from three-point range than 50.0 percent from mid-range. That means someone can be worse than the current league average on three’s (35.2 percent) and it is still more valuable than the NBA’s most accurate team (48.1 percent) on mid-range attempts.
We looked through the data and Locke’s speculation on Toronto is also what the latest numbers reflect. Only Kawhi Leonard is taking significantly more mid-range shots than three-pointers among high-volume contributors on Toronto. Good shooters like Leonard likely have a green light to take good looks from anywhere on the court.
As such, the Raptors are shooting just 34.0 percent from three-point range through 17 games. This ranks in the Bottom 10 among all teams so far this season. Some might view this as a cause for concern. But they have been the most accurate (48.1 percent) on mid-range attempts because they have been more careful about who takes these attempts.
Toronto is averaging a league-best 1.009 points per possession on mid-range jumpers, per Synergy Sports. But they’re averaging 1.005 PPP on three-point attempts, and while that ranks No. 20 in the league, it’s still the same value as their mid-range looks.
Non-dominant shooters on the Raptors such as Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby are presumably encouraged to move beyond the arc if they are taking a jump shot even though they aren’t particularly effective.