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.
- To put Curry’s numbers into some sort of perspective, 74 players took at least 150 3s last year and shot worse from beyond the arc than Curry has from Three-Point Suburbia.
- 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.