With the Slam Dunk Contest losing so much steam over the past few years, the Three-Point Shootout may just be the marquee competition of NBA All-Star Weekend’s Saturday night festivities. Consider that as an insult to how watered down and commercial the dunk contest has been, as well as a compliment to how many elite shooters there are in today’s game. With so much of an emphasis being put on the three-point line when teams run their offense, having numerous three-point threats is a necessity to thrive in today’s game.
There’s so many elite shooters, in fact, that the contest could be expanded if it wasn’t so time consuming. As a result, there are going to be quite a few shooters who are going to get left out, including those who may deserve a spot over last year’s winner, who has been a far inferior shooter to those who will be on the outside looking in.
But the best of the best will be on display, if they decide to participate. The only problem with the competition is how certain players end up losing their stroke afterwards. For example, former Miami Heat sharpshooter Daequan Cook never did return to form after winning the title in 2009.
Often times, the best shooters don’t even end up winning. Stephen Curry, for example, has participated twice, but has yet to even come close to winning on either occasion. Ray Allen also won only once in the six times he’s taken part in the festivities, while Dirk Nowitzki has also only won once in five tries.
It’s not even close to the same as catching a shot in rhythm or pulling up and taking a jumper in a game setting, but it’s still always worth seeing who earns bragging rights, even if it doesn’t actually mean anything.
Then again, does All-Star Weekend mean anything anymore? We’ll leave that discussion for another day.
For now, we see what six players deserve to be representing the league in the Three-Point Shootout.
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A three-point contest without Stephen Curry is like a dunk contest without Vince Carter, it’s just not right and it erodes the interest of the event significantly.
No player in the game at the moment can match Stephen Curry’s ability to hit pull-up three-pointers. While the three-point contest may be more well-suited to those who thrive in catch-and-shoot situations, such as Curry’s backcourt teammate Klay Thompson, Curry still has the mechanics to excel at any event involving shooting from long distances.
Nearly 11 of his 18.6 shots per contest are coming by way of pull-up jumpers, which he’s shooting 41 percent overall on. On pull-up three-pointers, of which he’s attempting nearly six per contest, he’s converting them at a 37 percent clip.
Curry leads the league in three-pointers made per game, 3.3 per contest, and is almost at the same pace as last season when he set the single-season record for three-pointers made in a season. Although he was shooting at a higher percentage last year, 45 percent to his current 39 percent, he maintains as the league’s most lethal shooter.
He’ll need to hit 132 three-pointers over the final 36 games to do so, roughly an average of nearly four three-pointers per contest. A tall task, but if anyone’s capable of doing so, it’s Curry, who is actually shooting well-below his career three-point percentage of 43 percent. There’s still time for him to balance out the numbers and begin shooting his usual averages.
If Curry participates, it’ll be the third time. He failed to make the final round in either of his two appearances.
Where he’ll get hot: Surprisingly, Curry is only a 28 percent shooter from the right corner. However, he’s a 42 percent shooter from the same area on the opposite side of the court. There’s only one area from beyond the perimeter where he’s truly excelling and that’s at the top of the perimeter, where he’s converted 44 percent of his 106 attempts.
There may not be a player who opponents should be more wary of taking open three-pointers than Atlanta’s Kyle Korver. That includes Stephen Curry. Because at the moment, nobody in the league has been a more consistent perimeter threat this season than Korver, the owner of a 46 percent three-point conversion rate.
That’s not even the best percentage of his career, either. In his final season with Utah, Korver led the league in three-point percentage when he made a staggering 54 percent of his attempts. He has never shot less than 37 percent from beyond the arc and is shooting 42 percent for his career. He hasn’t shot less than 41 percent from three since 2009, and he may only get better with former San Antonio Spurs assistant and current Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer preaching ball movement.
Korver is the best catch-and-shooter player there is in the NBA, making him a favorite for the three-point contest win if he is selected to participate. On over five catch-and-shoot attempts per contest, Korver is converting on nearly 50 percent of his shots. His effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers? 70.5 percent. Only Belinelli‘s 67.6 percent comes close.
Among those who take at least five catch-and-shoot threes per contest, only Wesley Matthews and his 45 percent come close. Marco Belinelli is also making half of his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, but is doing so on over two less attempts per game.
I’m not sure what’s a scarier prospect: that the Chicago Bulls had Korver playing alongside Derrick Rose or that the Miami Heat could have had him in the summer of 2010, but decided to take Mike Miller, instead.
Korver has participated in the shootout twice before, but hasn’t been a part of the festivities since 2005.
Where he’ll get hot: His shot chart overall is mind-blowing. He’s a 58 percent shooter from the left corner and 55 percent from the top of the perimeter. The only area from beyond the perimeter where he could be described as struggling, at least in his case, would be right of center, where he’s “only” making 37 percent of his threes.
For the first time in NBA history, the league’s two best three-point shooters from a statistical standpoint would be playing for the same team this year. Those two, of course, are Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, otherwise dubbed the Splash Brothers. There may not be a better shooting duo in NBA history. The two combine for nearly 20 points per game off of three-pointers alone, with only the likes of the famed Jerry West-Gail Goodrich backcourt even coming close to matching the duo’s efficiency.
While Curry thrives on his pull-up jumpers, Thompson meanwhile dines on catch-and-shoot jumpers. At 8.1 attempts per contest, nobdoy in the NBA is taking more of that type of jumper than Klay, who is converting such shots at a 44 percent overall clip. He’s also shooting 43 percent on six catch-and-shoot three-pointers per game.
Overall, Klay is a 41 percent shooter from three this season and is second in the league in three-point conversions per contest, dropping in three on a nightly basis.
Where he’ll get hot: Pretty much everywhere. He’s a 45 percent shooter from the right corner and a 41 percent shooter from the left, while also shooting 44 percent from left of center and 39 percent from right of center. Strangely enough, his worst percentage comes from up top.
The only player who may rival Kyle Korver’s catch-and-shoot efficiency, consider Marco Belinelli as another elite three-point threat the Chicago Bulls let go for next to nothing.
After shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc with the Bulls last year, Belinelli currently leads the league in three-point percentage with a conversion rate of over 46 percent on over three attempts per contest.
It’s on those catch-and-shoot jumpers where Belinelli’s his most lethal. Considering he’s on the San Antonio Spurs, the team with the league’s best assist ratio, a group that arguably moves the ball better than any other team in the game, Marco is going to thrive off of open looks generated by the offense’s ability to free up its perimeter threats. Belinelli is shooting 52 percent overall in catch-and-shoot situations and nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc on the same type of shots.
Where he’ll get hot: Right of center. Belinelli has been hitting from everywhere beyond the arc, besides the left of center where he’s only shooting 35 percent, but it’s right of center where he’s unequivocally the best shooter in the league. On 39 attempts, Marco has converted 60 percent of those shots.
He’s also shooting 50 percent from the top of the perimeter, as well as 46 percent from the left corner and 43 percent from the right corner.
What a comeback Channing Frye has made since sitting out the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart. Since returning, Frye has re-emerged as one of the league’s top perimeter threats, shooting 42 percent on over five three-point attempts per game. It’s only the second time in his career he’s shot over 40 percent from the perimeter, and is coming off a 2011-12 season where he managed to only shoot a shade below 35 percent.
What makes Frye such a lethal threat is his size. At 6-11, Frye is obviously a tough player to defend when he’s shooting the ball as he possesses a seemingly unblockable shot. Among the league’s top 25 in three-point percentage, Frye is only one of two power forwards, with the other being Ryan Anderson.
Frye also ranks among the league’s top catch-and-shoot players, shooting 44 percent on three-pointers.
Where he’ll get hot: Anywhere but the corners. In the spots where three-point shooters usually thrive, since the corners are the closest shots near the rim while still shooting a three, Frye is shooting 18 and 36 percent from the left and right, respectively. Meanwhile, he’s shooting at least 42 percent from left of center, the top of the perimeter and right of center.
Only because he was the three-point champion last year does Kyrie Irving earn a spot among this year’s contestants. Otherwise, this spot may have been taken by either of Portland’s elite backcourt shooters or possibly even New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson.
At the moment, Irving is having the worst shooting season of his three-year career, converting on less than 37 percent of his nearly five three-pointers per contest. Irving is still in a rare class of players, though, as he’s only one of three players in the league to be shooting at least 40 percent on pull-up jumpers overall and from beyond the arc.
Irving is a 42 percent shooter from beyond the arc on pull-up jumpers. Only Kevin Durant is shooting a higher percentage.
Last year, Irving won the Three-Point Shootout after scoring 23 points in the final round, the third-best mark in the history of the contest. He defeated Matt Bonner in the final round after the Spurs shooter scored 20 points of his own in the final round. Only Jason Kapono (twice) and Mark Price had better final round scores than Irving.
Where he’ll get hot: Seemingly everywhere except the right side of the court. Irving has struggled significantly this season shooting from the right corner (26 percent on 23 attempts) and right of center (25 percent on 37 attempts), yet has flourished at the top of the perimeter (42 percent on 26 attempts) and left of center (49 percent on 65 attempts).
Who do you want to see in the contest?
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