It’s rare when you can have two extremely gifted shooters on your team. The game just flows easier when you have multiple guys that can knock down shots from the stripe. After their breakout performances in last year’s playoffs, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (also known as “The Splash Brothers”) received the ultimate praise from their head coach Mark Jackson when he said in the Western Conference Semifinals last May, “I said I’ve got the greatest shooting backcourt that’s ever played the game.”
The comments by Jackson sparked a debate about who were the best shooting tandems in league history. While the NBA three-point line did not come into place until 1979, you can imagine if some of the legends like Jerry West and Pete Maravich had a chance to practice for years on the shot: it’d be nothing but buckets.
Below is a list of the best shooting duos in NBA history.
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15. MARK PRICE (Career Averages) — 47.2 FG percentage/40.2 3PT percentage (976 career makes)/90.4 FT percentage
TERRELL BRANDON — 44.8/35.5 (394)/87.3
Cleveland Cavaliers — 1991-1995
Mark Price was the Steph Curry of his era. If you watch some of the videos of Mark Price in his Cavs days you will see the comparison isn’t far off. Price was, without a doubt, one of the best shooters in NBA history. At the time he was one of the only players to join Larry Bird in the exclusive club of averaging 50/40/90 in a single season.
Just how Curry was underrated, Price was a second-round pick out of Georgia Tech. His stroke was pure and he had a lot of craft in his game. (Steve Kerr also played on some of those teams, but didn’t see much PT at all.) He was a four-time All-Star and a two-time Three-Point Shootout champion in consecutive years. After Price suffered a serious knee injury back in 1991, the Cavs pegged hometown native Terrell Brandon as his successor. The two never saw that much court time together as Brandon was mostly used as a scoring threat off the bench with a dangerous midrange jumper. After four years of backing up Price, Brandon came into his own, and showed the league he was one the best point guards in the league. Even Sports Illustrated put him on the cover in 1997 with the title “The Best Point Guard in the NBA”. This was during a time with Hall of Famers like John Stockton and Gary Payton in their prime.
14. EARL MONROE — 46.4/* (no three-point line)/80.7
WALT FRAZIER — 49.0/*/78.6
New York Knicks — 1971-1977
Monroe and Frazier made up one of the flashiest backcourts in NBA history, whether it was on or off the court. They fit the New York culture and both were very flamboyant in style. Before they were teammates, the two had a well-known rivalry dating back to their entrance in the league together in 1967. When the Knicks traded for Monroe, the “Rolls Royce” backcourt was born.
People wondered if Monroe’s playing style would fit with Frazier, who was the primary ballhandler and a superstar in his own right at the time. They proved critics wrong and were elite scorers for a contending Knicks team in the ’70s. Monroe’s playground style changed the guard play in the NBA forever, while Frazier’s laid back and cool demeanor made him one of the best orchestrators in NBA history. They led the Knicks to their last NBA championship during the 1972-73 season. Forty-one years later and Knicks fans are still searching for a championship.
13. CHAUNCEY BILLUPS — 41.5/38.8 (1,829)/89.4
RICHARD HAMILTON — 44.5/34.6 (530)/85.2
Detroit Pistons — 2002-2008
The Detroit Pistons were a force in the Eastern Conference during the first few years of the new century. The franchise was searching for answers that would help them return to title contenders. Signing Billups and acquiring Hamilton from the Wizards, the Pistons definitely made the right moves. The two would form a deadly combo.
A natural leader, Billups earned the nickname “Mr. Big Shot” for his clutch shooting in the 2004 Playoffs. Rip was known for tiring defenders with the way he moved without the ball, having them chase him around the court. He led the Pistons in scoring and had one of the sweetest catch and shoot strokes ever from midrange. They led the Pistons back to prominence in 2004, defeating Shaq, Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers. Billups was the Finals MVP, averaging 21 points per game.
12. MITCH RICHMOND — 45.5/38.8 (1,326)/85.0
CHRIS MULLIN — 50.9/38.4 (815)/86.5
Golden State Warriors — 1988-1991
Before the “Splash Brothers” made a splash at Golden State, you have to rewind two decades to Run-TMC, a trio of solid NBA pros named Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. Run-TMC was NBA entertainment at its finest. Under head coach Don Nelson, the group put together a team that electrified the crowd with their high-scoring offensive shows. The team did not have a structured playbook and had the green light whenever they were on the court together.
When discussing TMC with Ahmad Rashad, Chris Mullin once said, “On a given night Nellie would give us the freedom to go out there and play if we played the right way. In the locker room he would say ‘you know what guys I’m not going to call no plays along as you guys are sharing the basketball and making the right plays.’ It was incentive for us to do just that.”
Since this is a duo list and not a trio, the focus is on the team’s best shooters in Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. While Tim Hardaway caused havoc with his vicious crossover, Richmond was a physical presence that dominated with his scoring abilities and stretched the floor with his shooting. Despite his streaking shooting, Richmond put huge numbers. Chris Mullin was a natural southpaw who had the perfect stroke to complement Richmond’s physical inside-out game. While their team never really made a great championship run, they made sure to put on a show every night.
11. REGGIE MILLER — 47.1/39.5 (2,560)/88.8
CHUCK PERSON — 45.8/36.2 (1,220)/72.3
Indiana Pacers — 1987-1992
The year before Reggie Miller came to the Pacers, the team drafted Chuck Person, who became the 1986-87 NBA Rookie of the Year. Person was known to be a strong shooter and a considerable trash-talker in the league for years. He gained the nickname “The Rifleman” for his long-range shooting ability and vibrant personality on the court. Even Larry Bird proclaimed that Person was one of the toughest players he ever played against.
The following year, Indiana fans wanted hometown hero Steve Alford in the draft, but Donnie Walsh made the best decision: he picked Reggie. Reggie Miller was fearless in crunch time. Love or hate him, Miller was one of the most fun players to watch in “Miller Time”, a title due to his clutch shooting ability and theatrics against Spike Lee and the New York Knicks. Miller went on to have a Hall of Fame career, becoming the NBA three-point career leader until Ray Allen passed him in 2011. But Indiana fans will never forget when they had two of the best shooters in the game on the same team.
10. MIKE BIBBY — 43.6/37.9 (1,517)/80.2
PEJA STOJAKOVIC — 45.0/40.1 (1,760)/89.5
Sacramento Kings — 2001-2006
Arco Arena in the early 2000s was one of the most exciting places. The constant battles in the playoffs with the Shaq and Kobe Lakers were instant classics. With a team that consisted of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Doug Christie, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic, it’s amazing how this team didn’t win at least one championship. Bibby and Stojakovic were one of the best clutch shooting tandems to watch at the time, and Peja was one of the greatest long-range shooters in NBA history.
In 2003-04, he had his best season, averaging a career-high 24.2 points and was a major MVP candidate. He won the three-point contest twice and is sixth all-time in three-point field goals made. When Bibby joined the Kings in 2001, he helped turn the team into a title contender and led the Kings to an NBA-best 61-21 season. He did most of his damage in the playoffs, especially with the Game 5 Western Conference Final game-winner against the Lakers.
9. LARRY BIRD — 49.6/37.6 (649)/88.6
DANNY AINGE — 46.9/37.8 (1,002)/84.6
Boston Celtics — 1981-1989
During their span together on one of the league’s greatest teams, Larry Bird and Danny Ainge were a terrific shooting duo. In 1988, they put together one of the craziest stat-lines for a tandem, with Bird putting up ridiculous stats of 52.7 shooting and 40 percent from deep while shooting 91 percent at the line. Ainge averaged 16 points while shooting 49 percent from the field, 41 percent from downtown and 88 percent from the line. The two went on to win three NBA championships together and now are key rival NBA executives in the Eastern Conference with the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics.
8. PAUL PIERCE — 44.6/36.9 (1,858)/80.7
RAY ALLEN — 45.2/40.1 (2,899)/89.4
Boston Celtics — 2007-2012
When Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett decided to join the Boston Celtics in 2007, it was a sign of something special. Garnett and Allen, with Pierce, were all NBA All-Stars and looking for their first ring. Allen was known as a lethal shooter in his years with the Bucks and Sonics and continued his elite shooting with the Celtics. With Garnett handling the post, Allen and Pierce put on shooting exhibitions in their time in Boston.
It appeared they took turns when it came to who took the shot toward the end of the games. On their lone championship title, the two had incredible games in the series versus L.A. In Game 6, Allen tied a record of seven threes made. Pierce was the MVP of the series, wit 40/40/83 percentages. Even though their relationship burnt out after Allen left for the rival Heat, they brought basketball prominence back to the city of Boston. They have the most combined three-pointers for any pair on this list.
7. DENNIS SCOTT — 41.7/39.7 (1,214)/79.3
NICK ANDERSON — 44.6/35.6 (1,055)/66.7
Orlando Magic — 1990-1997
3-D and Nick Anderson were both key contributors in the Orlando Magic’s early success. Both shared the team’s scoring duties until Shaq arrived and are ranked one and two on the list of the most threes in franchise history. They were good role players for superstars Shaq and Penny Hardaway and helped contribute to Orlando’s first Finals appearance in 1995. During the 1995-96 season, Scott and Anderson had an NBA record for most threes by teammates with 435, before Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry emerged and broke their record. During that season, Scott had an NBA record at the time of 267 three-point field goals made on 42.5 percent shooting while Nick Anderson made 168 on 39 percent shooting.
6. PETE MARAVICH — 44.1/66.7 (10)/82.0
LOU HUDSON — 48.9/*/79.7
Atlanta Hawks — 1970-1974
When The Hawks drafted Pete Maravich out of Louisiana State, it led to extreme backlash within the organization. The Hawks already had an elite shooter in All-Star Lou Hudson and handed Maravich a lucrative contract, which did not sit well with a lot of veterans on the team. Early on, the mesh was not perfect and for two years they struggled getting acquainted, even though they both put up respectable numbers. Their games were drastically different, as Hudson did not bring as much flash as Maravich. It was not until their third year together when the two would form one of the most dynamic scoring tandems in history. Hudson averaged 27 points per game while Maravich averaged 26.1 points. Both players surpassed the 2,000-point mark on the season, becoming the second duo to accomplish the feat at the time. The partnership was short lived, however, after Maravich was traded to the Jazz in 1974.
5. JOHN STOCKTON — 51.5/38.4 (845)/82.6
JEFF HORNACEK — 49.6/40.3 (828)/87.7
Utah Jazz — 1994-2000
John Stockton and Jeff Hornaseck are two of the best players in Utah Jazz basketball history. Despite their miniature shorts, these two guys could shoot the ball. They both were highly efficient and averaged around 50 percent on their field goals in numerous years. Both only averaged fewer than ten shots a game, which is the only reason for them to be ranked this low. Known for their durability, these two rarely missed a game in their careers. Stockton is a Hall of Famer who was a 10-time All-Star and owns the all-time assist record. Jeff Hornaseck was the perfect third option for the Jazz and was a main contributor on their championship run during the 1997 and 1998 seasons, unfortunately losing to MJ and the Bulls.
4. STEVE NASH — 49.0/42.8 (1,682)/90.4
DIRK NOWITZKI — 47.5/38.2 (1,389)/87.8
Dallas Mavericks — 1998-2004
Back in 1998, the Dallas Mavericks were determined to turnaround their team from turmoil. On June 24, 1998, the club acquired both Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki in separate deals and dubbed them as the future of the Mavericks. While they both endured rough starts, the two overcame their struggles and became one of the best outside duos in NBA history. The two developed a close-knit relationship over the years and were committed in the gym to get better each day. With Nash becoming an elite point-guard that would one day win two MVP awards in Phoenix, he became one of the most efficient point guards ever to play and arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history. Dirk instantly became an international sensation in the U.S with his tremendous outside shooting ability for a guy his size and led the Mavericks to a title back in 2011 against LeBron and the Heat. The two made one of the best pick-n-pop shooting tandems in league history.
3. GLEN RICE — 45.6/40.0 (1,559/84.6
DELL CURRY — 45.7/40.2 (1,245)/84.3
Charlotte Hornets — 1995-1998
Stephen is not the only member of the Curry family that could shoot the ball with ease; his father Dell and teammate Glen Rice torched the NBA for three years together in Charlotte. Dell Curry was a huge threat off the bench for the Hornets and entered games and let loose from behind the line. He was the complete opposite of his son, being just a spot-up shooter, but he was lethal as a 40 percent shooter from downtown.
Glen Rice was automatic, especially during 1996-97 season when he was third in NBA scoring after Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, averaging 26.8 points per game. He put on one of the greatest shooting performances in NBA All-Star Game history, erupting for 20 points in the third quarter of that year’s game, going 8-for-11 and hitting four threes.
2. JERRY WEST — 47.4/*/81.4
GAIL GOODRICH — 45.6/*/80.7
Los Angeles Lakers — 1965-1968, 1970-1974
When it comes to scoring the ball as a tandem, not a lot of duos did the things Jerry West and Gail Goodrich were doing to defenses back then. Jerry West is an all-time NBA great; he’s The Logo. West dominated for the Lakers back in the 1960s but the team was not winning championships. With Goodrich coming back into the fold after a brief stint in Phoenix, the two had one of the greatest seasons for a NBA backcourt. During the 1971-72 season, the tandem averaged and combined for around 51 points per game a night. They went on to win the championship that year and will forever be ranked as one of the best scoring duos ever.
1. STEPHEN CURRY — 46.2/44.0 (750)/89.5
KLAY THOMPSON — 43.6/40.9 (432)/83.1
Golden State Warriors — 2011-Present
There is no doubt that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the best shooting backcourt tandem in the NBA right now and, in my opinion, the best shooting duo ever. In 2012, they put up historic numbers, becoming the all-time shooting duo in a season; Curry with the NBA record, surpassing Ray Allen with 272 threes while shooting 45 percent from downtown. Thompson was not far behind with 211 on 40 percent shooting from the stripe. They combined for 483 three-pointers, surpassing Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson as the ultimate shooting duo.
There will be some people that say the two are still too early in their career to make such a list, but you cannot downplay their numbers together throughout their three years of playing with each other. They are doing something that hasn’t been seen and are putting up highly efficient numbers.
After a recent game against the Miami Heat, Curry went off and got a huge boast from today’s best player, LeBron James.
“He controlled the tempo of the game,” James said. “One of the best shooters the NBA will see. The light he has is more than green — it’s florescent.”
Their shooting percentages across the board are spectacular this season. They both complement each other perfectly with Curry being the predominant ballhandler and Thompson running off screens; it is extremely difficult to double-team them. Barring injury or a trade, with Thompson only being 23 and Curry being only 25, these two will continue to cause headaches for teams for years to come.
What do you think?
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