Chicks Dig the Midrange Ball: A Kris Humphries Story | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Chicks Dig the Midrange Ball: A Kris Humphries Story

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Updated: January 23, 2015
[original image via GQ]

[original image via GQ]


You’ve surely seen Kris Humphries. Somewhere between bro and brah, reality and TV, boxers and briefs, the land of 10,000 lakes and the Potomac River, swimming and basketball, Uber rides and ‘fashion’, the midrange and the 3-point line.

These days he’s no longer an ‘item’ athlete; he’s looking to avoid controversy. Doubt Humphries would come first in any “most disliked player in the NBA” surveys today. Out of the ashes but perhaps still in a cocoon, this bird (and/or butterfly) has a flight path with two destinations: the midrange to drop jumpers and the glass to snatch boards.

“That’s what he does (rebound). I told Humphries that’s the reason he got paid—it wasn’t that jump shot.” This is what Paul Pierce said with coatings of facetiousness after Humphries pulled down 20 rebounds against the L.A. Lakers in Game 17 of the season. Or maybe the future Hall of Fame veteran actually believed what he said. Maybe Pierce’s mind has changed since. What matters is that he was wrong.

Ernie Grunfeld, Tommy Sheppard, and staff knew exactly what they were doing when they pegged Humphries as a free agent target this past summer. Once Trevor Booker signed a partially-guaranteed two-year, $10 million contract with the Utah Jazz, the Wizards moved fast to sign Humphries for cheaper—three-years, $13 million, with a team option for the third year.

It was hard for Washington’s front office and coaching staff to lose a player like Booker—a home-grown draft pick—but statistics played a large role in shifting their equation to Humphries. In losing Booker Washington would be losing presence and muscle, that’s for sure. To their surprise, and to the chagrin of Wizards fans, Booker has found a 3-point shot in Utah—1-for-10 from deep over his first four NBA seasons in Washington, 14-for-39 (almost 36%) so far this season with the Jazz.

Instead, the Wizards will more than take what they have in Humphries, who also provides presence—different than Booker’s but speaking to the soul of the team nonetheless. Also, Humphries is a full two inches taller with almost three more inches in wingspan. Booker—bless him and his cereal—was often vertically challenged in the restricted area. Humphries is a better rebounder than Booker (10.5 rebs per 36 mins. to 8.9), turns the ball over less (1.3 TOs per 36 mins. to 2.3), and is a better free throw shooter (74.6% to 62.9%). These metrics are some of the reasons why Washington, in essence, chose Humphries over Booker, and why the Wizards’ choice has a slight edge in defensive presence. Humphries’ Defensive Real Plus/Minus of minus-0.65 ranks 51st* amongst NBA power forwards; Booker’s minus-1.26 ranks 60 (*minimum 20 minutes).

But all of that is merely icing. The ultimate difference, contrary to Paul Pierce’s belief, has been Humphries’ jump shot. Half the time, it’s good every time. And it has been somewhat of a revelation, and it has given John Wall a true stretch-4 (not named Drew Gooden) who’s also smart enough to find seams in the offense that Optimus Dime creates with his speed.

On 2-pointers from 15 feet (about free throw line distance) to the 3-point line, Humphries is shooting 50 percent (67-134) through the first half of the season. This ranks fourth in the NBA (minimum 75 attempts) after Kevin Love (56.6%), Dirk Nowitzki (51.5%), and Al Horford (50.5%). In comparison, Booker is shooting 34.4 percent on 2s beyond 15 feet. Sometimes it’s better to be a reliable threat from an area that the defense gives you instead of an occasional gimmick—not all midrange jumpers are bad, provided the players who are taking them are open and can make them, and not launching with abandon.

“He’s got a really good jump shot,” Boston coach Brad Stevens told me when his Celtics last came to Washington. “I’m not as familiar with his time in Brooklyn, other than just watching some tape. But when he got there you could tell he’s got a good 15-to-17-foot jumper and I think he’s expanded it even more.”

From a TAI analysis on Humphries when he signed last August:

Last season (in Boston) 36.7 percent of Humphries’ field goal attempts came from beyond 16 feet but inside the 3-point line. In his prior 245 games with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, only 18.4 percent of his shots came from that range (just under his career average of 18.7 percent).



Humphries 16 Feet to the 3-Point Line, FG%:

  • With the Nets: 35.2%
  • With the Celtics: 42.6%
  • With the Wizards: 49.2%

Humphries just keeps getting better from 16 feet to the 3-point line (note that I used 15 feet as a starting distance above by means of the free throw line; Basketball-Reference.com breaks its data into the “16-feet < 3-point line” range).

Also: thanks a lot, Rajon Rondo and John Wall.

Wall has assisted on 44 Humphries field goals over their 615 minutes together. Rondo dropped 43 dimes to Humphries in just 415 minutes last season. (Yes, Wall is a much better scorer than Rondo and this year’s Wizards team has more overall options than last year’s Celtics.)

Credit Stevens for helping condition Humphries’ game, too.

“He’s told me that he wasn’t as used to playing in hand-offs and those type of things, and we asked him to do all that and I thought he did a really good job,” said Stevens. “And when Witt (Randy Wittman) called [last] summer and we talked about Kris, I had nothing but great things to say about him. I hope that it continues to be a great relationship for all of them because he certainly seems to be playing very well for them.”

So far, so good. You can check Vines of Humphries conducting dribble hand-offs with Bradley Beal and with Martell Webster.

“Looking at Coach’s offense, the bigs handle the ball. You’re running a lot of dribble hand-offs, you’re getting shots in a flow,” Humphries told me about his tutelage under Stevens. “So for me it was like, ‘OK, I really got to improve my shot and work on it.’ And I feel like I got a lot better playing with different aspects of my game—handing the ball, seeing cuts, all those kind of things.”

Seeing cuts? For sure. This Vine shows Humphries finding the space (with some credit to Otto Porter for the screen) as Andre Miller initiates offense from the post. Don’t leave him open either, Dirk Nowitzki. Humphries has even pulled out a shoulder shrug after making a jumper this year; perhaps he was as baffled as we were as to why Taj Gibson left him so open.

In a Wizards offensive set that I’m particularly fond of—putting a shooter in each corner and letting John Wall and Marcin Gortat work the high screen-and-roll—Humphries has found a knack for finding space in the defense along the baseline, acting as a safety valve for when opposing defenses are able to negate both Wall and the roll man as options. This Vine shows that; also note how deceptive Wall is when he makes this pass. The moving diagram of this action can be seen here via NBA.com. (UPDATE: Humphries also found the same type of shot against the Nuggets in Denver recently.)

But what about 3-pointers? Should Humphries learn to launch them like Trevor Booker?

He went 2-for-6 from deep his rookie season, 2004-05 in Utah. He shot 17-for-50 his one season at the University of Minnesota. Over 10 NBA seasons since, he’s 0-for-17 from deep, including 0-for-4 with the Wizards.

“Umm… You know what? I think some guys you do (ask to extend their range), and maybe in the corner, but I think that his comfort level is just inside the line,” said Brad Stevens.

What say you, Kris? Do you 3?

“I work on it all the time. My 3-ball’s wet, it’s just not something we’ve needed on this team right now,” he said, in essence dropping the mic on the interview process and exiting the locker room.

Is that so? Well, Nene has been feeling spry lately. Maybe one day we’ll see the 4-man in Washington’s offense hitting a long ball as the trailer on the break or when planted in the corner. Or maybe Kris Humphries can just keep doing what he’s been doing; his marriage to the Wizards seems to be working so far.

kris-humphries-and-g-wiz

 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.