Luis Scola's Mid-Range Slump


This past off-season the Pacers brought in Luis Scola to boost their bench scoring. Earlier this season we talked about how valuable he was playing, scoring the second most points per 36 minutes on the Pacers. A few weeks ago we mentioned a nice little stretch where he was dominating the boards. And ultimately he has been a big part of the reason the Pacers have improved their offensive scoring per game to 98.7 from last year’s 94.7.

Recently, though, his production — and to an even larger extent his efficiency — have fallen off quite a bit.

Coming to Indiana, Scola was known as an offense-first player who could score with the best of big men inside the paint, thanks to his craftiness around the rim. In his best years in the NBA , playing for Houston, Scola was attempting 55%+ of his shots from inside the paint (restricted area included). Although he didn’t attempt most of his shots from the mid-range (between the paint and 3-point arc), Scola was also proficient from that area on the floor, hitting his attempts at around a 45% clip or better.

But as we’ve seen with many players in the past (especially big men), as they age their game gets further and further from the basket. In the 2010-11 season (probably his best in the pros), Luis took only 26.8% of his shots from 15-19 feet. The following year it went up to 30.1% and that number again rose to 33.4% in this past 2012-13 season.

Because of the reasons stated above, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Scola was attempting 37.3% of his shots from 15-19 feet and a career low 43.0% inside the paint. The surprising thing was the clip at which he was hitting those shots. Through 30 games this year (before the start of calendar year 2014), Luis had hit 42-of-72 attempted shots from 15-19 feet for an astounding 58%! That’s way above league average and also well above players who are considered mid-range assassins: Dirk, 50%; David West, 49%; Bosh, 52%; Ibaka, 45%.

So what’s the point of stating all of this? Well the Pacers have struggled a bit of late, losing five of their last 15 games after only losing five of their previous 30.

It’s hard to go around pointing fingers at any one player, especially when the defense has been rather atrocious compared to it’s normal dominance, but Scola has hit a shooting slump. After hitting a crazy 58% clip from the 15-19 feet range before January, he’s come to Earth posting a 41% clip since the beginning of the year. That’s still a respectable/average number, but it’s been declining, as he’s only hit a mere 30% in the past six games.

Luis’ mid-range shot hasn’t been his only struggle since the new year. His overall field goal percentage has been 38.8% in 2014, as opposed to 53.2% before January.

Additionally, Scola was shooting lights out from 15-19 feet, specifically in the second halves of Pacers’ games.

Have a look below at how his second-half shooting (all locations) has gotten much worse since January 1.

As we know, the Pacers have been relying on explosive second halves to overcome first-half deficits or simply average first-half offensive performances. During the first 30 games, while the first-half deficits were a little concerning, they weren’t leading directly to Pacers’ losses, as the team were able to overcome and pull out the win most of the time over the final 24 minutes.

Recently though, while the second halves have still been better than first halves, they haven’t been as good as they were prior to 12/31 — and often not good enough to overcome first-half deficits.

Again, you can’t blame that decrease solely on Scola (the entire bench was awful against the Suns last night, for example), but it’s definitely been one of the factors in the Pacers’ offense struggling to put up as many points.

Also it might be concerning to see Scola’s field-goal percentage drop this much, which might cause some to think he’s breaking down because of age. But the good news is that over the course of his career, his field-goal percentage hasn’t shown any signs of decline throughout the course of the season. This could just be a 15-game (or so) shooting slump and he’ll knock his shooting percentage right back up during the second half of the season.

Additionally, he’s only played 792 minutes, which is his lowest total through 44 games in his career. Second lowest was his rookie year (when he had played 930 minutes in his first 44 games), and he’d averaged 1330 in his other five seasons. All of which are signs that he’s only going through a shooting slump and it’s not something to be too concerned of (yet) over the course of the season.

So let’s hope Luis Scola can use the week long All-Star break a couple weeks from now to his advantage and come back as a rested, rejuvenated mid-range assassin.

Shot Charts courtesy of NBA