There's a lot the San Antonio Spurs need to erase from their past to succeed this season. Aside from having to rely on a team effort instead of star power more than ever before, they'll need to make some adjustments to strategies they've grown too attached to in recent years.
The days of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are now gone. While both are/were fantastic players, one big reason their era didn't quite succeed was quite apparent -- they relied way too much on the mid-range jumper. Sure, both were extremely deadly with that shot, but the ripple effects of such a predictable and inefficient offensive scheme were hard to ignore.
In 2017-18, Aldridge led the league in mid-range field goal attempts with 553. Given that he converted on 42.5% of them and didn't have a teammate doing the same thing, there wasn't a major problem and the Spurs finished 47-35.
The following season, Aldridge (572) and DeRozan (553) were one and two in mid-range attempts. The Spurs still fared decently in the regular season, winning 48 games, but flamed out in the first round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets.
In 2019-20, the duo again were one and two in the league in attempts from the mid-range, and the Spurs finished 32-39. So what can be learned from all this?
Despite having two of the best mid-range shooters the league has ever seen, the Spurs still didn't even come close to having real playoff success. The days of NBA players over-relying on that shot are long gone and have been for a while now.
With Aldridge and DeRozan both having gone to the Eastern Conference, much of that issue with the Spurs will fix itself while possibly passing the problem onto their new teams (more so in DeRozan's case).
There's obviously still an important role for the mid-range shot. Sharpshooters like Bryn Forbes and Doug McDermott should certainly sprinkle some in when they're chased off the 3-point line. Keldon Johnson could also benefit from a deeper shot to open up his fearless drives to the rim. Dejounte Murray, of course, should let it fly from there anytime he's open.
But the days of this team relying on an abundance of mid-range jumpers should be over.
Murray finished 11th in the league last season in mid-range attempts. Of those 11, he was sixth in percentage over guys like Khris Middleton and Carmelo Anthony. Obviously, he should have a green light to let it fly with what's become his most prominent weapon. The issue plaguing the Spurs in the past was more due to the fact that their two best players focused solely on that shot.
Given the makeup of this roster, outside shooting woes should be a thing of the past. There's no shortage of 3-point shooters, and one of the biggest keys to success for the Spurs this season will be improving both threes attempted and 3-point percentage.
Use the mid-range shot to keep defenses guessing. Use it to counter a quick closeout. But the NBA is making the shot less optimal with every passing season. The Spurs would be wise to not fall behind the curve yet again in 2022.