While Dime has done stories on both the best shooters in the NBA and the players with the deepest range, we’ve never focused solely on the three-pointer. The adoption of the three-point line in 1979 dramatically changed the future of the NBA. Would Adam Morrison have even been considered a top 10 pick had this special skill not served a purpose? (Who honestly knows with MJ?)
Quick note on how I picked these lucky players: while I did take a look at 3FG percentage for the past season, it was not the only factor. Some players, in my opinion, could be lethal shooters from beyond the arc, but their job is to do more than just shoot. (Ex. Durant is a fantastic shooter whose percentage is slightly lower because he’s the main focus of opposing defenses) At the same time however, I won’t discount the work certain specialists have done simply because they’re only asked to make treys (Ex. Anthony Morrow). And while some players have been drafted solely to ride the pine until a three is needed, I chose players who play an average role or better for this column (so the likes of Matt Carroll are also absent from this list).
It was a delicate give-and-take process. Now that I’ve defended my choices, let’s take a look at the 20 best three-point shooters in the NBA right now.
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20. SHANE BATTIER
Battier took over control of the “Best Corner Three-Point Shooting Small Forward” title when Bruce Bowen retired. He’s money from there. After ending last season by breaking his slump with a 6-for-8 night from three in Game 7, Battier (a career 38.7 percent shooter from three for his career, 43 percent last season) will be asked to do even more with Mike Miller‘s departure this season.
19. MARTELL WEBSTER
Webster cashed in (four years, $21.9 million) after shooting a career-high 42.2 percent from three last season. With Otto Porter on the mend, Webster has every opportunity to play meaningful minutes again in Washington. With an improving cast, a healthy Webster should have lots of open right-corner threes, where he shot a remarkable 59.7 percent last season.
18. MIKE DUNLEAVY JR.
People forget that Dunleavy is much more than a three-point specialist (he averaged 19.1 PPG for Indiana in 2007) but now, playing with the best player of his career in Chicago (Derrick Rose), Dunleavy should have countless open shots from beyond the arc. After shooting a career best 42.8 percent 3FG last season (in Milwaukee nonetheless), the 6-9 combo G/F will be a key reserve in Chi-Town.
17. KEVIN MARTIN
OK, so he’s not James Harden. But lost in the disappointment of not being a replica of the bearded wonder was that Martin shot a career-high 42.6 percent from three last year playing with Durant and Westbrook. Now in Minnesota with Kevin Love, and reunited with former coach Rick Adelman (who coached Martin when he had his best years in Houston), can Kevin replicate those numbers? Playing within a system he’s comfortable with and with exceptional passer Ricky Rubio, I say Kevin Martin keeps knocking them down.
16. DIRK NOWITZKI
While Dirk is best known for his famous one-legged, off-balanced midrange jumper, he is no slouch when he steps out beyond the arc. A career 38.1 percent shooter from three, Dirk’s percentage would be higher if he wasn’t expected to do so much. Can you imagine a wide-open Dirk miss? I have a hard time seeing that image. This year, the reloaded (and now beardless) Mavs look to make the playoffs, once again led by Dirk. At 7-0, Nowitzki never has to shoot over a defender, making him a deadly weapon from downtown.
15. KYRIE IRVING
The winner of the 2013 Three-Point Shooting Contest, Irving is on his way to superstardom. Carrying the load for a mediocre Cleveland team, Irving still managed to shoot a shade under 40 percent from three (39.4 percent 3FG for his career) all the while being draped by defenders. Now with an improved supporting cast, Irving shouldn’t have to force as many shots as seasons past. Money from the top of the arc (44.4 percent), a healthy Andrew Bynum would provide a legitimate post presence for Irving, which would lead to a career year from beyond the arc.
14. ANTHONY MORROW
Morrow first burst onto the scene after signing with the Warriors as an undrafted free agent. He went on to lead the NBA in three-point field goal percentage in 2008-2009 with an incredible 46.7 percent. Over the last few seasons his “all-threes no D” style of play has relegated him to spot duty, but an uncontested Morrow three-pointer is almost guaranteed to fall.
13. ERSAN ILYASOVA
The second big man to appear on the list, Ilyasova has gone from an average shooter to a marksman over the last two seasons (shooting 45.5/44.4 percent respectively from three). A stretch four, Ersan loves the top/wing three off the pick and roll (shooting 54.7 percent from the top of the arc). With Larry Sanders suddenly demanding attention down low, plus a larger role with Brandon Jennings departing, Ilyasova will be a key factor going forward for the Bucks.
12. MATT BONNER
The “Red Mamba” is another rare, deadeye shooting big man. He plays a crucial role for the San Antonio Spurs as a floor spreader next to Hall Of Famer Tim Duncan. Bonner also led the NBA in three-point field goal percentage in the 2010-2011 season (45.7 percent) and is a career 41.7 percent shooter from three. Say what you want about his less than stellar athleticism, but the New Balance (is there a more perfect pairing in sports?) signee is no laughing matter from three-point range.
11. JOSE CALDERON
The perpetually underrated Calderon led the league in three-point field goal percentage last season (46.1 percent). His career 39.9 percent 3FG is a bad representation of how deadly he is from beyond the arc because of his atrocious 16.3 percent during his rookie campaign. Since adjusting to the NBA line, Calderon has developed into a deadeye shooter from three. Playing this year in Dallas next to fellow listee Dirk Nowitzki and the high scoring Monta Ellis, Jose should find himself open beyond the arc often this season. Expect another high 40 percent season from Calderon.
10. KLAY THOMPSON
Thompson’s phenomenal season is overlooked because of teammate Stephen Curry‘s (who may appear later on…) greatness as the season progressed. Thompson was no slouch himself as he finished third in the NBA in three-point field goals made with 211 (at 40.1 percent). Stepping into a possible sixth man role this season (he’s started a few preseason games off the bench in a volume shooter role), Thompson could be the number one option for the second unit before finishing the game next to Curry. The 6-7 shooting guard can get his shot off over most defenders and either way (starter or sixth man) makes up one-half of the best shooting backcourt in the NBA.
9. KEVIN DURANT
Remember how I said there were some players who I thought would shoot a higher percentage if they had a different role? Case number one: Kevin Durant. The 6-9 superstar shoots only 37.3 percent (like that isn’t a strong enough number on it’s own?) as the main focus of every opposing defense the Thunder play. Durant loves to shoot the three from the top of the arc, especially when the game is on the line.
8. DANNY GREEN
Has anyone had a quicker meteoric-like rise than Green? The former second-round pick has found himself a major role in San Antonio. After finishing seventh in three-point field goal percentage during the regular season (42.9 percent), he looked pretty good to make this list… but man o’ man did he catch fire in the postseason. This graph (courtesy of Grantland) shows how impressive Green’s postseason run was. Green shot 25-for-38 from three in the first five games of the Finals, a ridiculous 66 percent from downtown which broke the record of Ray Allen (who may show up soon).
With Manu Ginobili looking much, much older in the playoffs (and apparently having issues with birds over the summer), Green will have an even bigger role this season. The career 42.2 percent three-point shooter, Green lands at number eight.
7. RYAN ANDERSON
In my opinion, Anderson is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Yes, Anderson got a lot of open looks due to Dwight Howard in Orlando, but that isn’t enough to justify him making the most three-pointers in 2011-2012. Since entering the league in 2008, Anderson has taken and made more threes in each season. He puts up a lot of shots, and more than half of them are beyond the arc, where he shoots a steady 38.4 percent. With an improved roster for the Pelicans and an ever-improving Anthony Davis down low, Anderson should see more open looks from downtown this season and convert a higher percentage. Overall, Anderson is one of the most deadly shooters in the league.
6. J.J. REDICK
Last season, Redick actually went through a slump from beyond the arc… and he still shot 36.6 percent! When J.J. entered the league most thought he was destined to be a specialist who only saw minutes when a three was needed or during a blowout. Well, J.J. has improved his passing and even his defense, but his best talent is still his lethal long-range shooting. A career 39 percent shooter from downtown, Redick should benefit from playing with the league’s best point guard, Chris Paul, and have plenty of opportunities to shoot (and make) a high number of threes playing for the “Don’t Call Us Lob City” Clippers this year.
5. STEVE NOVAK
While Novak might still be upset with his ex-coach Mike Woodson over his role in the playoffs, I have no issues with the move as a whole; Woodson wanted defense, the kryptonite to Novak’s superman powers from beyond the arc. The 2011-2012 NBA leader in three-point field goal percentage (47.2 percent), Novak can straight-up shoot the lights out from three. In 2010, playing for the Mavs and Spurs, Novak shot an incredible 56.5 percent from three. (But didn’t appear in enough games or shoot a high enough number of shots to qualify for the record) Novak is money from the left corner, shooting 51.6 percent from that spot this past season. It’s yet to be seen how much run Novak gets in Toronto, but just as coach Dwane Casey said recently, “We know what Steve can do and we need it,” we can expect to see much of the same from the sharpshooting big man.
4. STEVE NASH
The two-time MVP might be getting up there in age (he’ll turn 40 in February) and is progressively slowing down, but he’s an ageless wonder when it comes to shooting. Nash is in 10th place all time in threes made, and shoots them at 42.8 percent a pop. Think about this for a moment: During his 17-year career, Nash has only shot under 40 percent from three-point range three times! (Two of them coming his last two years in Phoenix, where he tried to carry those terrible Suns teams.) His passing ability is so great that it oftentimes dwarfs his incredible shooting ability. Playing with Kobe Bryant, Nash has been more of a spot-up jump shooter, and while many hope to see the ball return to Nash’s hands this year, you can’t ask for a much better shooter than Nash.
3. KYLE KORVER
The stereotypical shooter, Korver has actually rounded out his game over the course of his career. But, his best talent is his three-point shot, where he shoots 41.9 percent for his career. The league leader in threes made in 2004-2005 (tied with Quentin Richardson with 226 made) and three-point field goal percentage in 2009-2010 (with an outrageous 53.6 percent), Korver has a long history of three-point prowess. I wanted to show a shot graphic on Korver, but realized how pointless that would be; he isn’t lights out from one spot; he shoots well from every area beyond the arc. Now in Atlanta, Korver will be asked to step into a possible starting role and score more often, but with Paul Millsap and Al Horford down low, there should be plenty of open jumpers on the perimeter for Korver to knock down.
2. RAY ALLEN
What was the most memorable moment of the 2013 NBA Finals? You’d be hard-pressed to name anything other than Allen’s Game 6, game-tying three-pointer, which seemingly sucked the life out of the Spurs.
This series was over before Game 7 even started; San Antonio was an emotional wreck after this shot. Allen has led the league in most three-pointers three times (2001-2002, 2002-2003 and 2005-2006), and is a career 40.1 percent shooter from three. If that wasn’t enough, he also holds the record for most three-pointers made all time, with 2,857 made to date. As Allen’s career enters its final years, we’ll remember Jesus Shuttlesworth as the G.O.A.T from three. Allen is well known for his corner three, but is lethal from any spot beyond the arc. With that being said, (although it feels blasphemous to do this) since this is a column based on the now/future, Allen falls to number two.
1. STEPHEN CURRY
The new top dog when it comes to three-pointers, Curry has quieted any of the doubters who said his game wouldn’t translate from college (where the offense at Davidson was, in short: run Curry around screens so Curry can shoot… repeat until game is over) to the pros. Curry is a threat to score the minute he crosses midcourt. The career 44.6 percent shooter from deep, Curry led the league in three-pointers attempted and made last season (going 272-for-600 from deep last year). He enters this season tied for second all-time in three-point field goal percentage (tied with Hubert Davis, trailing Steve Kerr), which is incredible given the attention he draws from defenders. Over the course of his short career, Curry has developed his dribbling and passing skills to complement his shooting, but his shot is still weapon number one. Again, courtesy of ESPN’s Grantland, we have this graph.
Orange means above average, and red is outstanding. What this graph shows is Curry is downright dirty from everywhere. He isn’t side-dominant either; he shoots often and accurately from either side. The point is Curry posses one of the beautiful strokes in the NBA and uses the three-pointer (and the threat of the three-pointer) better than anybody in the NBA. As the Warriors look to take the next step towards contending, Curry leads the way. The real question is will he finish as an all-time great? He’s off to a faster start than Allen was, and only injuries seem to be able to stop Curry.
Who do you think is the most underrated shooter in the NBA?
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