The Whiteboard: Mid-range legends, award predictions, suspension record for Draymond

Apr 18, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) against Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in the first half during game two of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant (35) against Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in the first half during game two of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

In today’s NBA news, we’re looking at the mid-range mastery of the Suns and Clippers, the Draymond suspension, award predictions and more.

Wins by the Suns and Cavaliers Tuesday night gave us our first two series splits. Today, we’re diving into what worked for the Suns’ offense, the mess left by Draymond Green’s suspension for Game 3 and what the awards we’ve already seen announced could tell us about those to come.

Suns vs. Clippers is for anyone who misses the art of the mid-range jumper

The Suns bounced back and took Game 2 from the Clippers, 123-109, thanks to a combined 79 points from Devin Booker, Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul. That group was an absolutely blistering 17-of-25 (68 percent) on mid-range jumpers, calmly dribbling their way to the center of the floor and dropping in rainbows, often over the outstretched hands of multiple defenders.

This game was an outlier but not exactly a surprising one. Paul and Durant are widely regarded as two of the most accurate mid-range shooters of all time. Booker is no slouch himself and if you add in Kawhi Leonard, who shot 49.2 percent from the mid-range during the regular season and is 6-of-13 so far in this series, you have four historically elite mid-range artists in this series.

The chart below shows the top 500 players in minutes played going back to the 2000-01 season, the first for which shot location data is available. Each player is marked by their total mid-range attempts and mid-range field goal percentage over that span.

Booker, Paul, Durant and Leonard all stand out, ranking in the 90th percentile or higher in mid-range field goal percentage among this 500-player sample. Obviously, though, Paul and Durant are in a class by themselves — of the 53 players with at least 3000 mid-range attempts in this time span, Steve Nash, David West, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki are the only players who were as accurate.

There are a lot more variables at play in this series but the fact that both teams have creators who can basically get these shots off at any time gives them an outsized impact. And if you’re worried about the dying art of the mid-range jumper, this is the series for you.

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NBA Award predictions

We’ve already seen the announcements for two official NBA Awards — Clutch Player of the Year (De’Aaron Fox) and Defensive Player of the Year (Jaren Jackson Jr.).

That still leaves us with Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player and Most Valuable Player. Given the winners we’ve seen so far, it seems that there is at least some level of collective disposition (conscious or unconscious) among voters to honor new players and teams that have often been left out of award voting in recent years.

Given that trend, here’s who I think will win the three remaining awards (not necessarily who I think should).

Sixth Man of the Year, Immanuel Quickley: Malcolm Brogdon is the other strong candidate here and he already won a Rookie of the Year Award in 2016-17. Quickley was red-hot down the stretch, averaging 24.2 points and shooting 42.9 percent behind the arc over the Knicks’ final 10 games. I think that and general enthusiasm for celebrating the Knicks and their underdog intensity locks it up for him.

Coach of the Year, Mike Brown: This is the year the Kings get to load up on every bit of recognition they’ve been missing for nearly two decades.

Most Improved Player of the Year, Lauri Markkanen: This is as tough a choice as there is on award ballots, with Markkanen, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Brunson as the finalists. Gilgeous-Alexander’s leap from borderline star to outright elite is probably the most significant but I think Markkanen’s narrative is more engaging for voters. considering how terrible everyone expected the Jazz to be this season.

Rookie of the Year, Paolo Banchero: This one feels pretty clear cut, considering both his play and the fact that Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen picking someone other than Banchero on his public ballot was enough for him to go viral.

MVP, Joel Embid: If missing games and bucking trends aren’t going to be barriers for NBA Award voters, Embiid seems like the most likely option.

NBA news and content from around the FanSided network

  • The Knicks had no answer for Darius Garland in Game 2. And they might not have one for the next game either.
  • Adam Silver added some new details on the in-season tournament the NBA will debut for the 2023-24 season. W.B. Whitted is skeptical.
  • Turns out it’s not just his teammates who aren’t wild about Trae Young. According to a poll of active players by The Athletic, he is the most overrated player in the NBA.

Draymond Green sets new record for postseason suspensions

Draymond Green has the distinct honor of becoming the first player in the past decade to be suspended in multiple postseasons.

I don’t know that I have a lot more to add here. I do think it’s pretty clear he deserved a suspension. I think it’s weird that the NBA let it linger as long as they did and wonder if the backlash to Shams’ pronouncement that they were leaning away from suspending him pushed things in the other direction.

But mostly, I just want to call out Josh Wilson’s piece about how the league set a dangerous precedent by acknowledging Draymond’s history was a factor in disciplining him. I have always assumed that was an unspoken factor in these kinds of decisions but, as Wilson pointed out, by making explicitly clear that it was part of the process opens a weird door.

What if Stephen Curry had done the same thing? Or Boban Marjanovic? Would they not deserve the suspension because of friendlier, cuddlier, more fan-friendly behavior and reputations? I would assume you take Green’s track record into account when judging his statements and explanations, in weighing whether you believe him that the contact was accidental or unavoidable. But, in my humble opinion, if you decide it was a chest stomp it shouldn’t matter who delivered it.

Today’s NBA Trivia:

Referring back to the chart above — Which player since 2001 has attempted the most mid-range jumpers? (The dot in the upper right-hand corner).

The answer for yesterday’s trivia question: In the two previous postseason matchups between the Suns and Clippers, the leading scorers for each team were Devin Booker and Paul George (2021) and Shawn Marion and Elton Brand (2006).

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