The NBA’s 10 Streakiest Shooters

While the sports world is paying more and more attention to statistics and analysis of those stats, the concept of streaky shooting is being brought to the forefront for basketball fans to breakdown. Being a streaky shooter is not necessarily a negative trait to have, as many streaky shooters can alter the result of any given game. While there isn’t an exact science behind streaky shooting, getting the hot hand or going cold, there are players who tend to display this behavior more than others.

So who are the top 10 streakiest shooters in the NBA today? Let’s find out below.

*** *** ***

Once Manu Ginobili officially hangs up his jersey for good, he will go down in the basketball history books as one of the best international players to ever play the game. His off-the-ball movement, including his brilliant slashing skills, will be forever remembered in the NBA and in San Antonio. Ginobili’s tendency to get the hot hand, which comes with his streaky shooting, will also be forever in the minds of fans.

Ginobili’s streaky shooting has been a positive for the Spurs, as his ability to get hot often shifts momentum at the right time and in critical moments of the game. Recently, fans witnessed his streakiness during the biggest stage in professional basketball: the NBA Finals. Ginobili shined in Game 5, which was his first time in the starting lineup in the season, scoring 24 points and dishing out 10 dimes. Then, in Game 6 and 7, Ginobili forced up questionable shots and racked up a combined 12 costly turnovers. Ginobili’s streaky shooting is a part of his game and has spurred memorable moments for Spurs fans throughout his career.

Monta Ellis has made great improvements to his streaky shooting this season. Why the sudden improvement in such a short amount of time? Ellis is in the right place – the Dallas Mavericks – and is surrounded by the right personnel – Dirk Nowitzki, Jose Calderon and Rick Carlisle – that allows his game to be most effective. Ellis had been tagged as a high-volume shooter with a dismal shot selection who liked to jack up shots on a routine basis. In each of his last six seasons, Ellis attempted a large number of 15-22 foot jumpers, and most were heavily guarded, poor quality midrange attempts. Ellis had a true shooting percentage that ranked 118th out of 148 guards, was ranked 134th in three-point shooting (28.7 percent), and had the worst field goal percentage (32.3) on jumpers off the dribble in the 2012-13 season.

Translation? Ellis’ streaky shooting scared off a lot of teams during free agency this past offseason. The Mavs were the team to take the risk – primarily due to what playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki can do for players – and so far, it has paid off a far as wins for the team and to the effectiveness of Ellis’ game. Sure, he is still a streaky shooter who can go cold one night, as he did in a late November game against the Warriors by shooting 2-for-16 from the field, then shoot lights-out in the next game. Ellis can still get hot and shoot a difficult game-winner, as he did recently against the Blazers.

Russell Westbrook is one of the league’s streakiest shooters, but has the ability to make the fans and viewers forget about it, as he is one of the highest impact players in the NBA who can easily put up 30 or 40-point performances on any given night. Additionally, less attention is paid to streaky shooters who consistently win. And that is what OKC and the Russell Westbrook-Kevin Durant tandem does so well.

Westbrook’s streaky shooting is a part of his game. Fans love to watch it. When he gets hot, he is smoldering. Yet, when he is cold, he tends to keep shooting, which causes viewers to question why he isn’t letting Kevin Durant – one of the league’s most consistent scorers – take over. It isn’t unusual to see Westbrook shooting 11-for-17 one night then 6-for-21 the next night, as he recently did earlier this month. However, OKC won both of those games (against Indiana and Atlanta) so his streaky shooting gets hidden.

If there is one thing that remains consistent in Nick Young’s game no matter the circumstance, it is that he is a shooter and will shoot…a lot. The Lakers brought Swaggy P to Los Angeles this summer to be that offensive player, especially on the wing. L.A. also needed a player that could create his own shot, primarily while Kobe Bryant was out of the lineup. Despite Young being a streaky shooter, the Lakers saw that it was worth the risk. So far, that risk has paid off even after Bryant’s return.

Young has played very well so far this season, even to a point where his name is floating around for potential Sixth Man of the Year consideration. He is averaging 14.5 PPG on 43.6 percent field goal shooting and 35.2 percent from beyond the arc. His shot selection is very frustrating and laughable at times, as he will often decide to force up shots while double-teamed, not to mention that essentially every shot he takes is a fadeaway.

However, if he begins to feel it, Swaggy P can make those ill advised shots with ease, especially at the three-point line – just ask the Memphis Grizzlies. (See below.) He certainly doesn’t lack confidence, which results in Young shooting the ball until he finds his stroke or even pump faking a free throw attempt (yes, this happened). It doesn’t bode well for the accuracy with his shot; therefore, he finds his way onto this list.

The Detroit Pistons might not be legitimate contenders to dethrone the Miami Heat this year, but their ceiling and potential is exciting to say the least. Detroit features one of the most lethal frontcourts so far this season with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith. The addition of Brandon Jennings in their backcourt instantly makes the Pistons entertaining to watch.

Of course, the addition of Jennings came along with his frequent public displays of overconfidence (see his guarantee to beat Miami in the playoff last season) and his streaky shooting. He is a high-volume shooter for a point guard, averaging 14.6 attempts per game, and tends to force 3-pointers and long jump shots too consistently. To look at an example of his streaky shooting, look at his shooting performance in two November games against the Hawks (4-for-16) and the Nets (2-for-10) compared to the next matchup against the Bucks, where he shot 5-for-10. He is especially streaky at the 3-point line (35.1 percent), where he can either make or break the team’s performance.

Rudy Gay is a high-volume shooter, whose shot selection makes fans and viewers scratch their heads in confusion far too often. While he is unafraid to keep shooting until he finds his rhythm, especially at the three-point line, he is also unafraid to take crucial shots in the clutch. When he is successful in those attempts, it is fun to watch.

Yet Gay has the tendency to get streaky with his shooting, not only in game-to-game situations, but with his shooting accuracy during one individual game as well, something he’s shown since his days at UConn. For example, look at Gay’s shooting performance during a February game against the Wizards last season. In that game, Gay made his first attempt, missed the next six, made the next five attempts, then made just one of his next seven shots, and then finished 3-for-6 the rest of the way. That is the epitome of the type of offensive performance Gay will post: a high volume of shots, streaky shooting, and the potential for making shots in key possessions.

Nate Robinson is an electric player who has the ability to swing momentum his way in any given game. His quickness and ability to score in bunches in a limited period of time is exciting and entertaining to watch. Robinson is a lethal weapon offensively when he is hot and is a nightmare for opponents when he heats up. However, the biggest drawback to Robinson’s game is his inconsistency and his streakiness with his shot.

It seems that Robinson is best suited coming off the bench as his streakiness tends to flare up when he is in a position to receive more playing time. For example, Nate Robinson shot a miserable 33.3 percent over a 10-game stretch last year in Chicago with Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich out. After that 10-game stretch, Robinson exploded for a 7-for-9 (77.8 percent) shooting performance the very next game. Robinson’s explosive scoring off the bench is desirable for a lot of teams, but his streakiness is a part of that package.

Jason Terry, a.k.a. the Jet, has made a career out of his streaky shooting. Coming off the bench, Terry can put numbers on the board at an unreal pace, especially if he gets hot from the three-point line, as he did in Game 5 of the 2012 postseason series against the Lakers, going 9-for-10 from beyond the arc. When the Jet is hot, he is smoldering. When he is cold, it is blizzard-like conditions.

Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas wrote the following about Terry’s streaky shooting during his 2011 year with the Mavs:

“Take the stretch of games from Dec. 30 through Saturday. Against the San Antonio Spurs to close out 2010, Terry was 3-of-16 from the floor for eight points. He scored seven points on 3-of-15 shooting two days later at Milwaukee.”

“Then he went on a five-game tear, scoring between 16 and 19 points in each game while hitting shots at a 48.8-percent clip, despite mostly misfiring from beyond the arc.”

While he hasn’t had much of a chance to show off his hot and cold streakiness in Brooklyn due to injury, Jason Terry will always be one of the streakiest shooters in the NBA, playing at one extreme (hot) or the other (cold) at the highest capacity possible.

Jamal Crawford is a dangerous sixth man, coming off the Clippers bench and provide a surge of energy for their second unit. Last season, Crawford’s scoring was the ultimate reason why the Clippers had the third-best bench in scoring in the NBA. So far this season, the Clippers’ bench has faced a bit of a hiccup due to the front office trading Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix, as they are currently the 12th-highest scoring bench with 33.3 PPG.

While Crawford can check into the game and kill the other team with his pure scoring and his sweet crossover, he has a habit of inconsistency and a questionable shot selection. He will often force up shots when cold, which can demolish or prevent any offensive rhythm for the team. However, when Crawford is hot, look out because he will singlehandedly take over a game. Crawford’s high volume of shooting comes with a price of streakiness. On one night, he’ll go 3-for-12 from the field – as he did on Dec. 9 in Philly – and then will go 7-for-14 in the next game – as he did on Dec. 11 in Boston.

J.R. Smith can give Knicks fans moments to cherish, or he can simply break their hearts. For a lot of New York fans, Smith is often regarded as this generation’s John Starks, often due to their streaky shooting. Starks’ most memorable display came in an untimely Game 7 performance of the 1994 Finals, when he went 2-for-18 from the field, including shooting 0-for-11 from beyond the arc.

While Smith hasn’t seen a Finals series in his career thus far, his streaky shooting has similarly made its strongest appearance during the playoffs. In the 2012 postseason, the Knicks faced the Miami Heat in the first round, losing 4–1. Smith averaged 12.2 points but only shot 31.6 percent from the field and a horrid 17.9 percent from three-point range. Smith’s streaky shooting continued its horrible timing during the 2013 Playoffs, when he averaged 14.3 PPG on 33.1 percent from the field and a dismal 27.3 percent from downtown. This performance was a disappointing way to cap off a campaign that saw him win Sixth Man of the Year, where he posted 18.1 PPG on 42.2 percent shooting from the field and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season. Smith’s erratic shot selection and inconsistency has become the norm is New York.

Yet he does have the ability to get hot, so hot that the basket suddenly expands to the size of the ocean. His erratic shooting has also set him up for buckets in crunch time, which either results in epic game-winners or shots that don’t come close, often leaving fans exiting the Garden shaking their heads. Smith’s volume shooting includes his streaky shooting, as you can see in his shot chart from this season.

*All stats provided by ESPN unless otherwise noted.

Who are the NBA’s streakiest shooters?

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @gobibs.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.