It's no secret that the San Antonio Spurs have been too in love with the mid-range jumper for too long. Fortunately, that appears to be changing in recent weeks.
Since the 2015-16 season, here's where the Spurs have landed in the league when it comes to field goal attempts from mid-range per game.
2015-16: 26.8 (2nd)
2016-17: 24.7 (T-2nd)
2017-18: 21.3 (3rd)
2018-19: 24.9 (1st)
2019-20: 21.9 (1st)
2020-21: 18.1 (1st)
The Spurs have been in the top three in mid-range field goal attempts for each of the past six seasons and have led the league for three straight years. Those seasons have resulted in a first-round exit and two postseason misses. As Project Spurs writer Paul Garcia pointed out, that's taken a turn in recent weeks.
As of Friday afternoon, the Spurs are currently 10th in mid-range attempts per game overall at 13.1. Since the date Garcia mentioned, they're now in a tie for 16th, shooting just 10.8 per game. As he also stated, free throw attempts and 3-point attempts have also gone up in that time.
Before November 26th, the Spurs were averaging 29 attempts from beyond the arc per game (29th) and 16.4 free throw attempts (30th). Those numbers have increased to 31.6 (26th) and 19.9 (26th) since.
Why This New Shot Selection is Encouraging
By now, Spurs fans know that over-relying on mid-range jumpers doesn't lead to much success. The inefficiency of that shot is too difficult to ignore, especially in the modern NBA where six teams are shooting over 38 threes per game.
While it can be a difference-making tool when used correctly, the Spurs don't have the overall talent to afford the luxury of using it enough to make the points per possession worth it.
San Antonio has been winning games mostly due to hot shooting nights from the outside and reducing the damage they allow opponents to cause from the outside. When they are baited into awkward shots from the middle area, they start to struggle.
They might be one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the league, but that number is deceptive since Jakob Poeltl is largely responsible for the poor percentage. Getting to the line is always a good thing in the NBA and certainly beats giving the opponent the one shot they want you to have.
Although it's not reflected in the win column just yet, the Spurs are making the right call by shifting away from the mid-range and into more efficient shots on the court. It'll certainly benefit them in the long run.