The Monsters of the Mid-Range
Writer: Jameson White
Going into the 2018-2019 season, the San Antonio Spurs will be facing uncertainty. You would have to go back to 1989 to see a Spurs team that was not led by a player who, at one point in their careers, was a top-ten player in the league; they were led by David Robinson, a member of the ‘92 “Dream Team,” throughout the 1990s. Throughout the 2000’s, Tim Duncan, arguably the greatest power forward of all time, was the unquestioned leader. Once Duncan retired, Kawhi Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, was the alpha dog. This year, there is not that transcendent player on the roster.
San Antonio’s best players are undoubtedly LaMarcus Aldridge and the newly acquired Demar Derozan. Behind these All-Star talents, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay are the guys who will have to be leaned on heavily for points. What do all of these players have in common? They have all been known to be some of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the association.
Coming from Portland to San Antonio in 2015, LaMarcus Aldridge has been one of the most feared mid-range shooters in the league. He is a six-time All-Star who has shot nearly 49% from 2-point range throughout his career; his best work has always come from the 15-20 foot area on the court. Whenever Kawhi Leonard wasn’t suiting up for the team last season, the Spurs had to run the offense through Aldridge, and he delivered with 23 PPG and one of the best shooting seasons of his career.
Demar DeRozan is one of the game’s most gifted scorers. For the last five seasons, he has averaged more than 20 points per game, including topping out in 2016 by averaging 27.3 PPG. In addition, he is a four-time All Star who has also made the last two All-NBA teams. While he has started to add a three-point shot to his game (averaged more than five attempts per game this last season when he previously averaged two), he still takes twenty shots per game inside the three-point line. Even adding this wrinkle to his game, he has always been considered a throwback offensive shooting guard.
Rudy Gay is another player for the Spurs who has always been offensively gifted. While he may not be the scorer he once was, he still has the ability to carry an offense for spurts throughout a game. He has always been, at best, an average shooter from three; the bulk of his scoring is done from inside the arc. When at his best, he is a high-flying wing who can make his own offense with pull-up jumpers and fade-away two’s.
Pau Gasol is yet another guy for San Antonio who can torch a team from the mid-range. He is not the post-dominant player he was earlier in his career, however, he is still one of the best offensive centers to ever play in the NBA. He, too, has added a three-point shot to his arsenal; yet, his best work comes from the elbows and the 12-15 foot area, as he can splash the in-between jumper and pass like few other big men can. Having a player who has won multiple championships and who was as much experience as Gasol can always help your team, but when he can also hit shots from the basket all the way out to the arc, that is an asset that can’t be overstated.
For years, San Antonio has been a franchise that has been able to escape mediocrity. Whether it was winning a title with a near-40 year-old Tim Duncan, or making the playoffs without the best two-way player in the NBA. This team is transitioning into an interesting era. They lost Kawhi, who was supposed to be the “perfect Spur,” and the bridge into the post-Duncan Spurs teams. In addition, this offseason has shown even more of being a reset, as they lost long-time Spurs Danny Green and Tony Parker, and with Manu Ginobili's retirement, this shift will be even more immense. The new-best players for this organization are masters of the in-between game; also to be known as the “Monsters of the Mid-range.”