The Best Shooters In The League From Way, Way Downtown

The impetus for this analysis was a Reddit rabbit-hole recently referenced in a mailbag by Bill Simmons:

Game 7 of the NBA Finals, down 1 point. 1.5 seconds on the clock and inbounding from the midcourt. What player in NBA history would you want to take the shot? 

Simmons came down to a decision between Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird, based on the ability of those two to get a shot off under any circumstances. Even surrounded by all five of their opponents, the opponent’s mascot, two kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the sweltering humidity of the Original Boston Garden, you’d trust those two to get off their shot from 27 feet.

Of course, that got my wheels a-turnin’, particularly the bit about shots from 27 feet. Who’s been the most accurate shooter from way, way downtown in the 13 years tracked by Basketball-Reference’s Play Index+? And just how accurate can one hope to be from such a distance?

I’d like to be able to say that there’s a surprising answer, but sometimes the universe is a logical place. As many of you probably suspected, Stephen Curry* is the king of shots that require a separate zip code from the arena in which they were fired. What is slightly surprising is how close second and third place are to Curry; he’s not the only one able to fling it from ranges that giant squid would find too deep and foreboding.

*Go take a second to look at Stephen Curry’s career 3-point percentage, just to remind yourself. I’ll wait while you do a quadruple-take. 

Quick methodology note: to level the playing field, I only took a look at shots in the regular season, so that each player had an equal number of potential opportunities to make the list. 150 attempts was the minimum for the list; there were a few players right around the 140-149 range who were accurate but by no means close to challenging Curry et al. atop this tower of baffling skill:


A few things will likely jump out right away:

  • Holy Shammgod, Kobe Bryant has launched A LOT of jumpers from beyond 27 feet. He’s not all that accurate, at 23.2%, but he’s still more clutch than LeBron James when it comes to these shots.
  • Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford with over 400 such attempts sounds about right, but I had forgotten that Boom Dizzle, Mr. Baron Davis, could chuck with the best of them. The “We Believe” Warriors was such a long time ago, it seems.
  • Another way of looking at Curry’s shooting: Stephen Curry from 27 feet is a better bet than nine NBA players from the free throw line were last year. The expected value of one of Curry’s long-range bombs is 1.11 points per shot (37% chance of making it multiplied by the 3 points awarded for a make). That’s the equivalent of someone shooting 55.5% from the charity stripe (55.5% times 2 shots worth 1 point = 1.11 points per 2-shot trip to the line). This nonet couldn’t quite meet the mark.
  • It warms my heart to see Vince Carter and Rasheed Wallace near the top of this list — for very, very different reasons. Vince being Vince. . . Sheed being Sheed!

Image by davidagalvan via Flickr. Did I miss somebody? Let me know on twitter.

Andrew Lynch

When God Shammgod created the basketball universe, Andrew Lynch was there. His belief in the superiority of advanced statistics and the eventual triumph of expected value-based analytics stems from the fact that he’s roughly as old as the concept of counting. With that said, he still loves the beauty of basketball played at the highest level — it reminds him of the splendor of the first Olympics — and the stories that spring forth from the games, since he once beat Homer in a game of rock-paper-scissors over a cup of hemlock. Dude’s old.

  • This was really great. Thanks, Andrew.

  • Caleb

    You could easily have named this article “People Who Are Not Draymond Green.”

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  • Matt

    Aaron Brooks has launched 169??? He’s got to be the leader in bombs attempted per 36 minutes.

    Also, as a Bucks fan, I challenge the fact that Jennings & Ellis combined are at only 335 — I would have bet my house that they had that many last year alone