Power Ranking the Best Pure Shooter on Every NBA Roster
What comes to mind when you think of a "pure shooter"? Are pure shooters simply born, or can a player develop into one?
We think of the greatest shooters of all time, and not even all of them had what we would call "textbook form." Reggie Miller's wrists crossed one another upon release. Dirk Nowitzki's cock-back release and leg positioning are awkward. Others, like Mark Price and Larry Bird, had jump shots so perfect they would be ideal for instructional videos and training.
Is the effect all that matters—making the shot? Or should we try to incorporate mechanics into the discussion? I've tried to take a hybrid approach here, considering both mechanics and results. I've also tried to give players credit for being great shooters, but not really great players (see: Slide 6).
All that said, a pure shooter is a relative term we hear thrown around a lot in basketball, but here's a look at the best pure shooters from every team, power-ranked from No. 30 to No. 1.
All statistics via Basketball-Reference.com
30) A.J. Price: Wizards
Why A.J. Price? Quite simply, because the Wizards have no pure shooters. Bradley Beal is a decent shooter, but more of an athlete, and Trevor Ariza has developed into a decent corner-three shooter. But Price is the only one who can make a living shooting the ball.
Is he particularly great at it? No, not at all. He shoots 30.9 percent from three and 37.5 percent from the floor. But the Wizards are horrible, and Price is selected by default. I shouldn't even allow Washington in this slideshow.
29) Goran Dragic: Suns
Goran Dragic is the first of three lefties in these ranking. The Slovenian hit 33.7 percent from three last year and 46.2 percent from the floor. His form is fluid, but he must become more consistent.
Moreover, it's hard to rank him higher considering his 73.7 percent career shooting mark from the free-throw line. Last year, he improved that mark to a respectable 80.5 percent, but a true pure shooter should shoot 85-plus percent from the line, at least.
28) Rudy Gay: Grizzlies
Gay is a pure scorer and has stopped shooting as many threes as he did his second and third years in the league. He's above average, but not by much (34.7 percent).
The Grizzlies don't really have any other true shooters on their team, though, and Gay did shoot nearly 40 percent in 2010-11.
27) Gordon Hayward: Jazz
When Hayward came out of Butler, I gave him a high Chris Mullin-like upside and a low Kyle Korver-like upside. It seems he's fallen right between those two marks and is just going to be a pretty solid role player.
He's very effective from mid-range and shot 48.5 percent from the floor as a rookie and 45.6 percent last year in his sophomore season.
Hayward hasn't launched a ton of attempts—averaging only 8.9 shots per game in 30 minutes of play per night—but that should change as the Jazz continue to develop him more. He is only 22 years old, so Hayward has time to become Mullin-esque, and he is already a more effective Kyle Korver.
26) Andrea Bargnani: Raptors
Bargnani is one of only six players in this slideshow who is 6'10" or over, and one of only two seven-footers. Last year was a down year for the Italian big man, as he shot under 30 percent from behind the arc, hitting only 34 of 115.
That's a pretty big fall from the 40.9 percent he shot in 2008-09, so there may be something broken in his mechanics.
Nonetheless, the guy still manages to make a living mostly from camping out behind the arc, so his bread and butter may lack the butter if he can't regain his stroke.
25) Tayshaun Prince: Pistons
Prince has a pretty shot, and now that Ben Gordon is gone, he's the undisputed best shooter on the Pistons. As you'll see later, I'm partial to lefties, and president Barack Obama shoots just like Tayshaun Prince. Seriously, their form is pretty identical. Is that a digression? Sure it is.
Prince has been solid over his career, with a 46 percent field-goal mark and 36.7 percent from three. He's not the kind of player that teams fear getting hot and going berserk, but they can't really afford to leave him open either.
24) Jason Richardson: 76ers
J Rich made a name for himself dunking the basketball, but later realized he could further his career by developing a shot. That he has done. While his career is dwindling down, and his athleticism gone, his jump shot should keep him in the league a few more seasons.
He'll be the main beneficiary of Andrew Bynum double-teams, and will knock down the open looks when presented. He's shot over 40 percent from three twice in his career, hitting 36.8 percent last year with the Magic.
Jrue Holiday had slightly better percentages last season with 37.7 percent from three, but the difference is negligible. Richardson has better form than Holiday and is more clutch, which I also think should be taken into account.
23) Wesley Matthews: Trail Blazers
Wesley Matthews is good and only getting better. Though his numbers were slightly down last year, that is partly attributable to the lower talent level in Portland.
He is 39.3 percent from three in his three NBA seasons and 44.5 percent from the floor. He came in as an undrafted rookie out of Marquette, but quickly found his way into the Utah Jazz rotation due to his deft shooting skills.
22) Kevin Martin: Rockets
If it were all results-based, Kevin Martin may rank a few notches higher, but his form just isn't all that sound. His elbow juts out on his shot and that prevents him from ever reaching the kind of percentage benchmarks that the true pure shooters on this list have.
I'm not saying 37.7 percent from three and 44.3 percent from the floor is bad—at all. But Martin has regressed since his days in Sacramento, when he shot over 40 percent from three for three consecutive seasons.
21) Marcus Thornton: Kings
Thornton is more of a pure scorer than a pure shooter, but still gets the nod for the Kings over Jimmer Fredette, mainly because of impact. Fredette's shot is more mechanically sound, but there's something to be said for Thornton's quick release and ability to get red-hot from the floor.
He's a career 36.2 percent from three and 44.1 percent from the floor, so his percentages are good, but not the kind of mark we see from guys later in this slideshow.
20) Doron Lamb: Bucks
Doron Lamb is going to make a living as a spot-up shooter. Last season at Kentucky, he shot 48.6 percent from behind the arc as the main beneficiary of Anthony Davis double-teams, and he hit 49.7 percent overall.
He won't get quite as many open looks on the Milwaukee Bucks, nor anywhere near as many minutes playing behind a star scorer like Monta Ellis. But Lamb has a future in the league and is the Bucks' best shooter, mainly because Brandon Jennings takes himself out of consideration by having such poor shot selection (which, inevitably leads to horrid percentages).
19) Jason Terry: Celtics
JET just joined the Celtics this offseason, and will look to fill the shoes of Ray Allen. That's a lot to ask, but Terry's shot does rank him in the upper tier of NBA shooters, so Celtics fans shouldn't be too disappointed to see Jesus Shuttlesworth depart for South Beach.
Terry is a career 38 percent three-point shooter and the former Sixth Man of the Year has shot over 40 percent twice in his career. Terry, who will be 35 by season's start, should still make a big impact for a Boston squad in need of bench scoring.
18) Manu Ginobili: Spurs
One of the three southpaws to grace this list, Ginobli's form is very solid and effective. He's shot 45.2 percent from the floor over his career—37.3 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the line.
Last season was his first year over 40 percent from three, and a lot of the guys that rank higher than him on this slideshow have better percentages. Still, just the fact that he has a pretty (and left-handed) jumper makes it hard to drop him any lower than 18th.
17) Richard Hamilton: Bulls
Rip Hamilton is a pure shooter, but he lacks true three-point range. That's why he doesn't crack the upper half of this list.
He's great coming off picks and getting open, which has to be considered, even if it isn't truly what makes the shot itself. Hamilton can shoot well off-balance and has a quick release. He's the mid-range Reggie Miller.
16) Danilo Gallinari: Nuggets
The Rooster has shown an ability to score in bunches from outside dating back to his early years with the New York Knicks. His percentages aren't the most jaw-dropping, but 42 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent from three is impressive.
His form is very pretty, which I said is another major consideration in these pure-shooter rankings.
I also think the best is yet to come from Gallinari, as he is only 23 years old and still finding his way as a shooter and player. His best season from beyond the arc came in his second year in the league (38.1 percent), and I think Gallinari can eventually become a 40-plus percent three-point shooter.
15) Danny Granger: Pacers
Granger is a high-volume three-point shooter. He shot over 400 threes for four consecutive seasons and would have been over 400 last year if not for the shortened 66-game season.
He's 38.4 percent from three for his career and 43.8 percent from the floor. His shot is fluid and his release is high, which makes it easy for the 6'8" Granger to get shots off.
14) Deron Williams: Nets
D-Will's best shooting percentages came early in his career (a career-high 41.6 percent from three as a rookie), and his field-goal percentage over the last two seasons just hasn't been that great.
Still, he's a high-volume shooter and hasn't had the support from teammates over the last two seasons in New Jersey, the main reason for his regression.
With a more talented cast in Brooklyn this year, it's quite likely his percentages climb back up to what they were in Utah. It's hard to fault a shooter that can't get open looks.
13) Daniel Gibson: Cavaliers
Boobie Gibson ranks high on this list because his penchant for hot streaks, and his fearless abandon for getting shots up toward goal. It's not exactly what makes a "pure shooter," per se, but his form and results are solid (41.6 percent career from three).
He would rank higher if his mid-range game were more effective, but his long-distance jumper is deadly. Plus, Gibson has competed in the three-point contest twice.
12) Ben Gordon: Bobcats
Ben Gordon's career has regressed of late, but his shooting ability has never been the reason why. He's shot over 40 percent from three every year in the league except his worst career year in 2009-10.
Gordon came into the league as a highly regarded shooter. He shot 42.3 percent from behind the arc at UConn, and won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in the 2004-05 season.
11) Kevin Love: Timberwolves
The first thing people associate with Love is what a great rebounder he is, and rightfully so. Then, you look at his outside shot and realize he is also one of the best pure shooters in the league today.
His form is very pretty, and the results are impressive, too. Love hit 37.2 percent from three last year, and 41.7 percent in 2010-11.
Love is not a born shooter, but one that has developed more range as his career has gone on. He shot only 19 threes his rookie season, but last year launched 282 with the T'Wolves.
10) Stephen Curry: Warriors
Curry boasts some of the best percentages in the league. A career 47.3 percent from the field, 44.1 percent from three and 90.1 percent from the line, Curry's shooting is pure, solid and quick.
He can't seem to stay healthy and on the court, but I guess we can't really hold that against him for the purposes of this discussion.
Like his father Dell, Stephen is a born shooter.
9) Kevin Durant: Thunder
Durant's jumper is silky smooth; that's the best way to describe it. Due to his 6'11" frame and nearly absurd 7'5" wingspan, Durant is nearly unblockable. He gets his shot off at will and hits contested jumpers as though they are wide open.
He's more of a pure scorer than a pure shooter, but one would be hard-pressed to say he's not one of the best shooters in the league today.
The OKC star hit 49.6 percent from the floor last year, 38.7 percent from three and 87.8 percent from the line. That's dangerously close to closing in on the 50/40/90 club, which we'll discuss more later.
8) Ryan Anderson: Hornets
Ryan Anderson led the league in both threes made and threes attempted last year, as the main beneficiary of Dwight Howard double-teams.
Armed with a quick release, the 6'10" Anderson made Rashard Lewis expendable in Orlando and earned himself a four-year, $36 million contract in the sign-and-trade that sent Gustavo Ayon to the Magic.
Named the league's Most Improved Player last season, the 24-year-old Anderson should continue to have a huge impact on the Hornets, regardless of the fact that he may not get quite as many wide-open looks.
7) Anthony Morrow: Hawks
Anthony Morrow led the league in three-point percentage in 2008-09 with the Golden State Warriors, hitting an outstanding 46.7 percent from behind the arc. He shot 45.6 percent the following season, 42.3 percent in 2010-11 and then a less impressive 37.1 percent last year.
Still, his career percentage sits at 42.6 percent and he hit 93.3 percent from the line last year (though he failed to qualify as a league leader as he averaged less than two free throws per game).
In his fourth NBA game with the Warriors, Morrow scored 37 points and hit 15 of 20 field goals, including four of five from downtown. Watching that game, I thought to myself we were about to see the next really special shooter in the NBA.
The jury is still out on that, but Morrow is only 26, so he's just entering his prime. It's unfortunate he'll be spending some of it in the obscurity of Atlanta.
How could I give Morrow the nod over Kyle Korver, you ask? Quite simply: Morrow has more game and can get his shot off easier. That has to be taken into account.
6) Steve Novak: Knicks
Steve Novak may be the best shooter the casual fan has never heard of. His range is unparalleled and the 6'10" forward from Marquette shot a league-leading 47.2 percent last year, knocking down 133 threes total.
He can step out four or five feet behind the line and shoot with grace and ease.
Last year was his first season receiving major playing time. And by "major" I really only mean 18 minutes per game. Still, Novak scored in double figures 20 times and had a high of 25 against the Celtics on April 17, when he nailed eight of 10 from the floor.
All 10 shots were threes!
5) Chauncey Billups: Clippers
"Mr. Big Shot"...they call Billups that for a reason. Billups is as clutch as they come, and that has to be factored in at least a little, though it has nothing to do with form or results.
Billups is a career 38.9 percent three-point shooter, and shoots 89.4 percent from the line. His form is pretty close to perfect, and his release is quick and effective.
It's tough to give him the nod over Jamal Crawford as the Clippers' best shooter, but I feel the proof is in the pudding, and Billups has nailed so many clutch shots in his career that it gives him a slight edge over Crawford.
4) J.J. Redick: Magic
J.J. Redick ranks so high because of his form. The Better Basketball instructional video series even utilizes Redick because of his textbook form.
The Duke legend is a career 40 percent three-point shooter and he hit 91.1 percent from the line last season, which ranked second in the league, behind only Jamal Crawford.
It's hard not to include Aaron Afflalo in the discussion for Orlando, as he has hit 40-plus percent over the last four seasons, too. But Redick's form alone ranks him this high.
3) Dirk Nowitzki: Mavericks
As mentioned in the intro, I was really hesitant to rank Nowitzki this high. His form isn't horrible, but it isn't the perfect jumper either. His foot positioning is awkward and his release is strange, as well. But his shots fall in spite of it, not because of it.
In fact, what makes Dirk so interesting is the fact that despite some of his defects, he still nails shots at such a high clip. Nowtizki is one of only five players in the 50/40/90 club (50 percent FG, 40 percent threes, 90 percent free throws), which he accomplished in the 2006-07 season.
Does that make Dirk a pure shooter? Of course it does. Still, his mechanics are what prevent the Mavs great from topping this list.
2) Steve Nash: Lakers
Steve Nash is the second of only five active players to enter the elusive 40/50/90 club. And he's also done it more than anyone else—four seasons (consecutively, no less) from 2005-06 to 2009-10.
Is that enough to qualify him as the greatest shooter of all time? Almost.
Nash's form is perfect and his jump shot is pretty, but what separates him from the No. 1 is the slightly higher volume and slower release by Nash.
Am I nitpicking? Sure. But Nash is No. 2 overall, so not too much criticism to be found. The guy's shot is pretty, and it goes in.
1) Ray Allen: Heat
I think Ray Allen is the greatest pure shooter ever. He's the all-time leader in threes made, and because his form is so much better than Reggie Miller's (and the difference in results negligible), you have to give Allen the nod in the all-time best discussions.
Allen is winding down his career, but the 10-time NBA All-Star still shot 45 percent from three last year. That was actually a career high, suggesting his shooting may even be getting better with age.
Add this to the fact he is a career 89.4 percent free-throw shooter and 45 percent from the field, and it's easy to say Allen is the best shooter ever to grace the NBA floor.