The 10 Best 3-Point Shooters in the NBA

Martin Bater@@MartinBaterSPContributor IIOctober 20, 2012

The 10 Best 3-Point Shooters in the NBA

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    The best three-point shooters in the NBA aren’t defined by just being really good at making shots from long distance.

    The elite shooters in the league do sometimes look like they are playing pop-a-shot from 23 feet out, but they also inspire confidence in their teammates.

    When Michael Jordan was sitting on the bench in the waning seconds of Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals with the score tied at 86, Steve Kerr told him he'd be ready when MJ was double-teamed by the Jazz.

    Jordan was double-teamed after all, but he could have still taken the hero shot. He was Michael Jordan, who was going to question him? However, the best player ever didn’t hesitate, and he put his trust in his teammate, who was wide open at the top of the key to make the championship shot.

    Fifteen years later, that moment still ranks as one of the best ever in NBA Finals history.

    Kerr, Robert Horry and Reggie Miller are three of the best three-point shooters of all time, but who are the 10 best shooters right now as we get closer to the start of the 2012-13 season?

    Let’s take a look at the list, but first, a clue: The No. 1 player on this list also put his name at the top of a very meaningful list in 2011.  

10. Anthony Morrow (Atlanta Hawks)

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    This spot was up for grabs between Ersan Ilyasova—who was the second-most accurate player in the league from long range, making 45.5 percent of his threes last year—and Anthony Morrow, who was at a 37 percent clip with the Nets.

    Ilyasova might have had the more impressive year, but his three-point shooting felt like a fluke.

    Let's consider that the Turkish small forward had made just 29.8 percent of his attempts from long range in the previous campaign, while taking roughly the same amount of shots (121 in 2011, 112 in 2012).

    Ilyasova’s effectiveness the year before that was also underwhelming, at 33.8 percent.

    Morrow, on the other hand, had the worst season of his career last year and hadn’t shot worse than 42 percent from beyond the arc before then, even though you could also say his percentages have been steadily declining since his rookie year.

    Morrow will have the chance to bounce back this season playing for a team that will attempt plenty of threes in its up-tempo offense. That seems more likely than Ilyasova keeping up the blistering pace he put up last year.


9. Manu Ginóbili (San Antonio Spurs)

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    Less is more with Manu Ginóbili, who made a career-high 41.3 percent of his three-pointers last season. He attempted just 126 of them, compared to the 441 he put up in the previous year.  

    Then again, he missed 32 games last year because of injury, but even if we projected that amount to 82 games, it still comes up over 100 shots short of his previous total.

    What makes Ginóbili stand out is that he is a player that plays for the team, not for himself.

    The Argentinean guard’s merit is that he won’t jack up shots like Antoine Walker or just stand in the corner waiting for someone to get him the ball.

    His varied arsenal of shots allows him to keep the defense honest and to steadily make threes when they are needed most, since he has a well-earned reputation as one of the most clutch players in the league.  

8. Jason Terry (Boston Celtics)

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    Jason Terry is the “Jet” that allowed the Dallas Mavericks to land as NBA champions in 2011.

    Miami Heat fans hate him, Mavs fans love him, and he honored his nickname by celebrating like he was “flying” after the three-pointer that sealed the win for Dallas in Game 5 of the Finals with the series tied 2-2.

    The Celtics now have a very valuable player in Terry, a veteran sixth-man who can come off the bench to energize the second unit. He is also a career 38 percent three-point shooter.

    Last season was his best from beyond the arc since the 2006-07 campaign (37.8 percent shooting).

    If that is any indication of his durability, the 35-year-old shooting guard still has a couple of very good years left in him.

7. Ryan Anderson (New Orleans Hornets)

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    Ryan Anderson is not higher on this list because it remains to be seen whether his outstanding numbers were a product of playing alongside Dwight Howard in Orlando.

    The Hornets’ new addition was the only player in the NBA to attempt more than 400 three-pointers last season (422).

    Anderson made 39.3 percent of them, good for 28th in the league.

    Most importantly, Anderson was a staple of the game plan for Orlando’s opponents, a testament of the kind of impact his shooting had on the Magic’s success.

    Anderson is a versatile forward who can also rebound if he puts his mind to it, but his biggest test will be to prove that he can be just as lethal alongside Anthony Davis as he was with Dwight Howard.

    Will Davis draw fewer double-teams than Howard did in Orlando? Will Anderson still make his presence felt in spite of that?

    That is the question New Orleans hopes turns into a resounding “yes” to help the Hornets leave the Western Conference basement.

6. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

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    Kevin Durant proved he could be a clutch three-point shooter last year as he broke the Mavericks’ heart early in the season. That would set the stage for the heartbreak Dallas would experience later on in the postseason.

    The 24-year-old forward has never attempted less than 200 threes in his career, either in Seattle or in Oklahoma City.

    He was also fourth in the NBA with 344 three-pointers attempted in the last lockout-shortened season.  His career high was 414 in the previous campaign.

    Durant also achieved a career-high 37.3 percent field-goal percentage from long range in last year’s playoffs, and he possesses the endless potential of a superstar who is still far from his ceiling and is just now entering his prime.

5. Steve Nash (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Steve Nash is as consistent as they come, with a career 42.8 percent mark from beyond the arc. 

    The new Lakers point guard had a down year statistically last season, making “just” 39 percent of his threes. That was his lowest mark since the 1998-99 season with the Dallas Mavericks, when he had an effectiveness of 37.4 percent.

    It is probably safe to assume that a healthy Nash will be a massive upgrade for a Lakers offense that was stagnant last year. They were in the bottom 10 of the NBA last season, making 32 percent of their threes, with Metta World Peace (38.9 percent) and Kobe Bryant (28.3 percent) taking most of them.

    Nash's presence should take some of the burden off of Kobe and allow the threes to fall more fluidly in 2012-13.

4. Mike Miller (Miami Heat)

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    Mike Miller played in just 39 games with the Heat last season, and he was dangled as trade and amnesty bait. 

    Most senior citizens were probably healthier than the 32-year-old forward with his assortment of injuries, including ankle, back and hernia ailments.

    However, when he is healthy, Miller is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA.

    Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals was a true testament of it, as Miller was unconscious from beyond the arc, draining seven threes to help the Miami Heat clinch their second championship in franchise history.

    With a full offseason of rest and plenty of time to recover from his most recent back injury, Erik Spoelstra and the Heat hope Miller can carry over that performance into this season.

3. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

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    The entire country fell in love with Stephen Curry in 2008 when he led Davidson on a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament, and Curry has allowed his game to transition smoothly into the NBA.

    Curry's innate shooting ability is just as smooth in San Francisco as it was during his college days in North Carolina.

    Curry had an accuracy of 43.7 percent from beyond the arc in his rookie year, and that number has steadily gone up since then to 44.2 in the 2010-11 season and 45.5 last year.

    Curry is 24, just like Durant, and he also hasn’t fulfilled his potential yet.

    However, he is already one of the best shooters in the league and could reach Reggie Miller/Ray Allen levels of success if his ankles allow it. 

2. Steve Novak (New York Knicks)

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    Steve Novak does nothing but shoot three-pointers.

    He will just stand in the corner, and everyone knows that he is going to be there. Yet somehow he led the NBA in three-point percentage last season, sinking 47.2 percent of his attempts.

    The 29-year-old veteran is almost allergic to the painted area. He took a total of 337 shots last year, and 282 of them were three-pointers. Simply amazing.

    Standing in the corner and shooting threes all the time sounds easy. In reality, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Few players in the NBA are as consistent and reliable at what they do as Novak is, and that earns him the No. 2 spot in our list.

1. Ray Allen (Miami Heat)

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    Ray Allen isn’t just a shooter, he is a cold-blooded sniper. He will allow Heat broadcaster Eric Reid to say plenty of “ka-booms!” next season in Miami as he sinks three after three.

    Allen is the all-time leader in three-pointers made, and he will join Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Mario Chalmers in Miami for what could become one of the most deadly outside-shooting trios in the league.

    The threats from outside are scary enough before adding Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to the mix.

    Allen may be 37 years old, but he didn’t lose a step last year, as he made 45 percent of his threes in 46 games. He will try to silence his critics by doing what he does best: making clutch threes coming off screens when he is needed the most.