Can Stephen Curry be the greatest three point shooter ever?
I’m tempting a shooting slump here, so sorry about that. There probably isn’t a best time to broach this topic, so it might as well be now.
Stephen Curry is not merely a “knockdown shootah” as Mark Jackson might put it. He’s not merely a guy who can hit the three really well. If his early seasons are any indication, Curry has a fantastic chance at becoming the best three point shooter of all time. Actually, if current numbers hold over the course of his entire career, that’s exactly what he’ll be.
In all of NBA history, only Steve Kerr claims a better career three point percentage than the 44.3% mark Stephen Curry has today. Kerr’s 45.4% is certainly impressive, but some caveats apply. First, Kerr accomplished this feat on 1.8 attempts per game, whereas Curry has a 5.0 attempt average for his career. Second, and more importantly, Kerr was helped by a quirky rule change.
Back in 1994, the three point line was moved in to a uniform 22 feet. Steve Kerr drank thirstily from the not-so-deep waters, putting together two consecutive seasons of converting more than half his threes. The league ended the party in 1997 by moving the arc back to what it is today, and Kerr went back to being a merely awesome three point specialist, as opposed to a blowtorch with hands.
Without Kerr’s three seasons of 52.4%, 51.5% and 46.4% distance numbers, Steve’s all time figure dips down to 42.4%. In fairness to Kerr, we have no clue what he would have shot at a normal distance in those prime years, and he actually pulled off a 50.7% season as a second year player. Still, it’s hard to make the case for Kerr as history’s best long range shooter when guys like Ray Allen took far more attempts and didn’t get such a huge boost from tinkering owners (Note: Ray Allen currently has a 40.1% career three point mark).
Stephen Curry is similar to Ray Allen in that he lets it fly frequently while maintaining accuracy. Curry might have a meager-looking 43.5% field goal mark this season, but some of that can be attributed to the whopping 6.7 three point attempts he launches per game.
Enough with the numbers. This is a large part of why I favored keeping Curry over Ellis, and defended Curry’s game in many arguments with Matt Steinmetz. We are not merely witnessing a great shooter; We might be witnessing the greatest shooter.
Obviously, there’s more to the game than shooting, and Curry has skills to offer besides the long ball. But his elite skill intrigues me because, apart from its undersold value, this shooting ability represents one of the few times that Golden State can claim to have the best of anybody doing anything.
Perhaps that doesn’t matter to you, perhaps you’re one of those people who’s sick of Golden State’s obsession with ancillary stats and finally getting an All Star entry. I understand that, but I personally enjoy seeing a beautiful craft, done as well as it can be done. Not much special has happened out here, between We Believe and the recent run of stunning basketball competence. I’d prefer to give this shooting its due respect. It’s been an island of greatness amid the dreck.