Mid-Range 2’s and the Shot Clock

The average NBA field goal attempt is worth just north of one point. At the girls high school level over the past four years I found a field goal attempt to be worth about two-thirds of a point. And in case you have not heard, the mid-range two is a little less valuable.

I just finished the book Sprawlball by Kirk Goldsberry. Thus, the boring analytics intro. Goldsberry takes a deep dive into the analytics of the modern NBA. As he put it, “With the exception of lay-ups and dunks, two-point shots are simply dumb choices.” And this idea is not exclusive to the NBA. Colleges, high schools, and AAU programs have adapted. Goldsberry offered new insight into some under celebrated statistics that could be worthy of consideration for coaching nerds (like me). Here is one that I think could add value.

Shot Clock Countdown Attempts

I looked at the numbers of my team and our opponents over the course of the last four seasons. Eight seasons of total data. There was not one year in which the mid-range two was a better option than a three pointer. In fact, the worst three point shooting season was more efficient than the best two point percentage season. The worst three point season of the eight seasons in the data set was 0.53 points per three point shot. The best season from the mid-range two pointer generated 0.50 points per shot. The blue line (points per three attempt) is always higher than the red line (points per mid-range two attempt) in the graph below.

The Insignificance of the Distance between Mid-Range and 3

Often NBA principles do not translate to high school. This is not one of those instances. The impact of shooting percentage as players move back a couple feet is very minor. The incentive of receiving the extra point is much greater than the disincentive of a slightly further distance to shoot. The obvious conclusion based on all of this information is to stop shooting mid-range two’s. And it seems like the data indicates that is where we are trending. Even in high school athletics where data is spotty and word travels slower than professionals or colleges.


Each of the past four seasons our team and our opponents have shot a lower percentage of mid-range two’s than the previous season. The secret is pretty much out. Coaches know it and the idea is transferring to players. The question now becomes when, if ever, should players take the mid-range shot? There are players that are more proficient in this region than others, so coaches and players should be aware of who these players are. One valid time for every player is if the shot clock is winding down. Getting up some shot is better than getting up no shot.

Single Digit Shot Clocks

Our team rule is for the bench to countdown starting at 9 seconds left. I did some pretty painful research and discovered that our team took a shot with only single digits left on the shot clock in 7.8% of all possessions in games we lost by single-digits the past four years. That amounts to roughly six times per game. This past season we took a mid-range two pointer in 9.4% of all possessions. All things considered, I feel pretty good about the percentage of mid-range two’s attempted. For six times per game though, I think working on these scenarios in practice by counting down from ten with a set defense is worth the investment. See if the team can get to the rim, knock down a three, or preferably both in only ten seconds.

2 thoughts on “Mid-Range 2’s and the Shot Clock

  1. “With the exception of lay-ups and dunks, two-point shots are simply dumb choices.” – this is a crazy statement!!!! look at a shot chart for Durant, plenty of mid-range shots which make him unpredictable, which mades him harder to guard.

    the problem with applying this 3 point shot philosophy to high school girls is that some freshman & soph’s are simply not strong enuff physically to shot 3’s with their normal form. so the choice for these kids is either don’t shoot or heave up a 3.

    in my experience, kids who are NOT good shooters are much more likely to shoot 2’s than 3’s. so just looking at yearly shooting percentages of 2’s & 3’s may not give an accurate picture of how valuable the mid-range shot is.

    i realize the game is evolving and everyone is trying to build a better mousetrap but the best offense is knowing the spots where a kid can shoot score from and running plays to get that kid the ball in that spot, whether it’s a 2 or a 3.

    Bill Russell: “What these young bloods have to understand is this game has always been, and will always be, about buckets.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xYejfYxT4s

  2. I like your take coach. Particularly the part about kids who are not good shooters bringing down the 2 point percentage since they take a disproportionate amount of shots there. Numbers can almost always be skewed to support any narrative as I’m sure we’ve both seen.

    Two and three seasons ago the leading shot taker on our team was a perfect case study of what you are saying. She was actually more proficient from the mid-range than the three point line. Building a better mouse trap comes down more to looking at individual strengths and weaknesses at lower levels especially where the skill sets are much more diverse.

    Goldsberry is trying to push the idea of making the mid-range more relevant in his book and even suggests the NBA move the line back a couple feet to make the overall percentage go down to about 33% league-wide.

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