Why Clippers’ Chris Paul is the NBA’s best mid-range shooter


Dec 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph (5) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The hype and admiration for Stephen Curry has grown exponentially over the last year or so, and the end result of being crowned league MVP and winning a championship was extremely well deserved to say the least. However, there are still important factors that give Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers an edge. Firstly, as the NBA’s best floor general and passer. Secondly, as a superior defender. And thirdly, as a better mid-range and pull-up shooter (from inside the three point line, that is. Just to clarify before angry comments are made).

The last point there may surprise you, as it’s hard to believe that another point guard could be better than the great “Chef Curry” in some aspects of shooting. But when it comes to Chris Paul, that’s the case.

We know how good his ball handling is, how well he can shoot off the dribble and how crafty he is at using his forearm to push off defenders and create more space for a jump shot. Paul excels at all those things and used his excellent mid-range game to account for a large amount of his 19.1 points per game last season. In order to expand on his performance, though, and add a little more detail of how he ranks among the NBA elite, here’s a look at the numbers behind the incredible shooting display he put on in the 2014-15 season with the Clippers.

First off, a look at the overall accuracy of Chris Paul from various ranges inside the arc from last season, in comparison to the best shooter in the game, Steph Curry.

From 3-10 feet, Paul shot 48.8 percent, compared to Curry’s 45.8 percent. From 10-16 feet, Paul shot 51.9 percent, just slightly more than Curry’s 51.5 percent. And from 16 feet to the three point line, it wasn’t even close. Paul shot 48.7 percent, an entire 9.3 percent better than Curry’s 39.4. Yes, CP3 can’t create ridiculous shots in the same way Curry can, but in terms of pure accuracy and shot selection, he comes out on top.

Just to add even more evidence to the argument for Paul’s case, he was also more accurate from 16 feet out last season than four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant was in his 2013-14 MVP season.

It’s somewhat surprising that CP3 shoots nearly 10 percent better from 16 feet out than the great marksman that is Stephen Curry. But for those who watch the Clippers’ star point guard play, they’ll know just how good he is from mid-range. Either when pulling up in transition, quickly firing a step-back jumper in the face of the defense or shooting off-balance.

There’s more than just an accuracy matchup with Curry to look at when it comes to Paul’s mastery of the mid-range jumper, though.

When looking at the best pull-up shooters in the NBA from last season, Chris Paul clearly comes out on top. He made more pull-up field goals than any other player with 4.6, which easily beat out second place Russell Westbrook (3.9). It’s not just about frequency with Paul, though. It’s his excellent efficiency as well.

Paul’s pull-up field goal percentage last season was 47.7 percent. Which is an incredibly accurate mark, seeing as the mid-range pull-up is often considered a dying art in the NBA. And for a 6’0″ point guard, who can’t exactly shoot over players with the ease that Durant can, it’s even more impressive.

To add some context to Paul’s efficiency with the Clippers last season, he was a more accurate pull-up shooter than Kyrie Irving, Monta Ellis and Klay Thompson. Furthermore, Paul shot at least 10 percent higher on pull-ups than Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James.

10 percent is a big margin. Against some of the league’s top few players, it’s even more staggering.

December 17, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) shoots against the defense of Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Again, when comparing Paul’s overall field goal percentage to the top scorers in the league, he’s still superior in terms of efficiency to almost anyone. With a shooting percentage of 48.5, CP3 was more accurate from the floor than 15 of the NBA’s top 20 scorers. The only players to rank ahead of Paul were LeBron, Durant, Curry, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis.

Yet, with four of those five players being more than 6’8″ and having the ability to play at power forward (if it wasn’t their starting position already), it’s hardly surprising that frontcourt players were able to edge out the shooting percentage of a 6’0″ point guard. Those four can all attack the rim and dunk over their opponents for high efficiency shots. If you take them away from the basket, that’s when Paul comes into his own, as both the Clippers’ elite floor general and deadeye shooter.

More from Clipperholics

Simply put, the argument over who’s the best mid-range shooter in the NBA comes down to three players: Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. The reigning MVP obviously has an edge when it comes to draining three point bombs, but there is more to basketball than that. Although, with how three-point-happy the league is now, most people overlook how effective a strong mid-range game can be.

But CP3 goes against that. As a result, the only two players that even compare to Paul’s mid-range ability are the two best overall shooters in the game today: Curry and Durant. The only reason they are placed above Paul is that they are both higher volume, shot creating, 40 percent three point shooters.

However, they can’t stop Chris Paul from being the best mid-range shooter in the entire league.

Next: Are the Clippers really as dysfunctional as Bill Simmons says they are?