The field of highlights theory is only just emerging as an area worthy of scholarly pursuit, but its basic tenets are already well-established. In highlights theory: a highlight video serves two purposes:
1. To entertain the viewer
2. To bring attention to the unique or exemplary skills of the player in question
The ideal highlight video will meet both criteria. If either criterion is not met, then the video should not be made in the first place, and it if is made, it should definitely not be uploaded. To upload such a video would be a disservice to a viewership whose eyeballs deserve to view only the most edifying of content.
This Kristaps Porzingis midrange-ilation clearly satisfies criterion #1. Is there anything more entertaining than watching a 7’3″ dude easily splash jumpers over the top of helpless defenders? I would argue that no, there is nothing more entertaining that that. Porzingis is not afraid of facing up and pulling the trigger whenever he feels like it, he’s not afraid of fading or leaning to get his shot off, and he’s also not afraid of doing some dribble moves to get to a spot on the floor where he’s comfortable letting it fly. The Dirk comparisons are so easy to make that they feel like cheating.
However, criterion #2 is where this video falls short. To put it simply, Porzingis is not a good midrange shooter. He’s not even an average one. He sucks at it. The idiom “quantity over quality” applies here in much the same way it applied to many of the brickerific midrange “specialists” who proliferated in the mid-2000’s.
The definition of “midrange” is nebulous. The official NBA stats website has one definition, basketball-reference has another, and I feed my own parameters into basketball-reference’s “shot finder” feature to codify yet a third definition. However, none of these definitions is friendly to Porzingis: he rates as a roughly 35%-37% midrange shooter in all of them (considerably below league average, which is somewhere around 41%). When NBA statheads in front offices across the league turned against the midrange shot, what they were really turning against was players like Porzingis who would take needlessly difficult shots while paying no heed to what the success rate of those shots was.
Stats.nba.com tells us that, out of players with at least fifty midrange makes in the 2019-20 season, Porzingis shot the fourth-worst percentage on those shots. Zach LaVine, Tobias Harris, and LeBron James were worse. 59 players were better. 59 players deserve this video more than Porzingis does. You can relax the criteria and find many, many midrange jumpshooters who are worse than Porzingis, but his deadly combination of volume and inaccuracy makes him much more of a detriment than a player who only attempts thirty midrange shots all season while making eight of them.
Porzingis will wow you with the shot-making ability he displays in this video. There is no doubt at all about that. Even I, knowing the whole horrible truth, can easily watch this video again and again. But imagine how your enthusiasm would be dampened if, for every middy jimmy that Porzingis hits, you’re forced to watch two misses, many of them being absolute bricks that had no chance of going in and should never have been attempted in the first place. You would quickly find another video to watch.
An unexplored area of highlights theory is the balance between the two criteria (entertainment value vs. player skill). If one criterion is exceptionally strong, it could potentially make up for a weakness of the other criterion. That balance is why I decided to upload this video rather than withhold it from my viewers. The entertainment value derived from watching Porzingis hit tough shots in a variety of ways compensates for the fact that Porzingis was not a good enough midrange shooter to deserve such a video.
Porzingis shows tantalizing promise as a shooter and his various injuries and injury recoveries may very well have affected his shooting ability this season. I, and everybody else, will be watching him closely to see how his development progresses. But, really, this whole overwrought analysis is just serving as a friendly reminder to the consumer of NBA highlight videos: what you see in the video might be a true reflection of what happens on the court night in and night out.