Is This Year’s Three-Point Shootout Field The Best In League History?

Kyle Korver is enjoying one of the most impressive shooting seasons in NBA history. Klay Thompson just set an all-time record by scoring 37 points in a single quarter. Steph Curry is the league’s leading MVP candidate and broadly considered basketball’s preeminent marksmen. And all three players will reportedly take part in All-Star Weekend’s Three-Point Shootout. Amazingly, though, no member of that exalted trio leads the NBA in treys; Wesley Matthews, another contest competitor, owns that distinction. All of which begs a question: Is this the most impressive three-point contest field ever assembled?

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that JJ Redick will join the aforementioned quartet in the six-man event:

The Golden State Warriors’ backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson plan to participate in the NBA’s three-point shooting contest during All-Star Weekend in New York, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, Portland’s Wesley Matthews, and the Los Angeles Clippers’ J.J. Redick are among the six players set for the contest on Feb. 14 at the Barclays Center, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The collective strength of the reported field almost makes that sixth participant irrelevant for terms of this discussion. Nothing short of the league rounding out the group with a guy like Josh Smith could take any shine off this season’s contest. And what if James Harden or Kevin Durant joins? Man.

As is, though, does this Three-Point Shootout merit consideration as the best ever? Certainly. The combined star power, current marskmanship, and collective relevance of Curry, Thompson, Korver, Matthews, and Redick is unprecedented over recent seasons. Whether or not this event tops each one ever put on is more difficult to decide.

We’re confident saying that this field bests each of the past eight. Looking through the list of annual participants makes it obvious that each year includes a “throw-in” who’s relatively anonymous to the majority of the viewing public – players like defending champion Marco Belinelli, Anthony Morrow, Daniel Gibson, or Daequan Cook.

This group lacks a similar name; so did the one assembled in 2005-2006. Dirk Nowitzki (champion), Ray Allen, Gilbert Arenas, Chauncey Billups, Quentin Richardson, and Jason Terry is a starry, starry class. But Richardson’s luster had worn off in his first season with the New York Knicks, and Arenas was more scorer than shooter despite so many memorable long-range bombs – both players shot under 37 percent from deep for the year.

By contrast, Curry has the “worst” three-point mark among 2015’s named field at 39.6 percent. He also attempts seven treys per game on a higher number of off-dribble tries than any player in the league.

2006 is out.

No other field of the 2000s compares. Those of the 1990s are littered with big names, but a bit player in every case, too. The Shootout in 1991 looks very promising on paper: Danny Ainge, Clyde Drexler, Tim Hardaway, Hersey Hawkins, Craig Hodges, Terry Porter, Glen Rice, Dennis Scott. But then you remember that Drexler simply wasn’t a shooter, and his inclusion that season is similar to Michael Jordan’s a year earlier – simply for star power. The Glide shot 31.9 percent from three-point range in 1991. Yikes.

Eliminating every contest including and after 1991 for “best ever” consideration leaves us assessing just five more. 1990 is out due to Jordan’s presence; the sheer volume of competitors (nine) dooms 1989; and participation of Trent Tucker in 1988 and 1986 and a young Detlef Schrempf sandwiched in between renders those events inferior to 2015’s, too.

At least in our opinion. There’s undoubtedly some recency bias influencing our assessment, and our relative youth probably is, too.

But the trio of Curry, Thompson, and Korver to headline the field is unquestionably epic, and the inclusion of Matthews and Redick more than sustains excitement. These guys are all key players on four of the league’s best teams; we’ll watch each of them try to shoot their squads deep into spring come playoff time.

There just hasn’t been a Three-Point Shootout field like this one before. And depending on who the sixth and final participant is – come on, Harden! – that realization could soon become widespread.

What do you think?

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