Predicting Where Stephen Curry Will Rank Among NBA's 3-Point Legends
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has been pumping in the threes at a faster pace than anyone this season, and if he keeps it up, he'll find himself alongside (and possibly above) some of the NBA's best all-time snipers.
We learned before Curry's last contest against the Los Angeles Lakers that the 25-year-old guard had hit more triples than any other NBA player through his first four seasons—and it wasn't even close.
Perhaps aware that noted marksmen Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr were sitting courtside as part of TNT's three-man announcing team, Curry put on a performance that seemed to say, "Eat my dust, fellas." Nine three-point buckets later, the Davidson product had left little doubt about his potential as an all-time great shooter.
Career records are a few years off for Curry, who has only played 256 NBA games. But in the near term, he's closing in on a pretty impressive single-season mark.
With just nine more triples, Curry will surpass a record held by the man who has hit more career threes than anyone.
Record for Most 3s made in a season: Ray Allen 269 (2005-06); @stephencurry30 has 261 w/ 2 games remaining: vs. Spurs @ Portland— NBA History (@NBAHistory) April 13, 2013
Erasing Ray Allen from the record book won't be easy, as Curry will need to make an average of 4.5 long bombs over the Dubs' final two games to do it. But keep in mind that although Curry averages just 3.4 made threes per game this season, he has made five or more triples 19 times this year.
And based on the way he looked against the Lakers, it's reasonable to assume that Curry will stay hot enough to make history before the season ends.
For a shooter as confident and technically sound as Curry, single-season distinctions should really only constitute the beginning of his onslaught on the league's history books. A quick look at Curry's current pace reveals that he's on track to finish as the single greatest three-point shooter of all time.
Sorry, but here comes the math.
We've already established that Curry's early-career trajectory has him well ahead of some of the league's best shooters. With a four-year average of 2.5 makes per game, Curry already eclipses every player that ranks in the top five spots on the NBA list of all-time made threes.
Allen has hit an average of 2.3 per game during his career, while Reggie Miller, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce have all knocked in fewer than two per game. If Curry continues to hit triples at the pace he's established in his first four years, he should be able to surpass everyone but Miller and Allen sometime in 2020.
But here's the thing: Curry's career pace is nowhere near as good as the mark he has put up this season, which we mentioned was 3.4 per contest.
Assuming he plays 70 games per season for another 10 years at somewhere between his career level and the one he's established in his breakout 2012-13 campaign—say, three made triples per game—he'll end up with right around 2,750 made threes by the time he's 35.
That number will put him ahead of Miller's 2,560 makes and about 100 behind Allen's current, still-growing record of 2,858.
Good health will be key to get that far, but Curry has missed just four games this season and has seemingly put his reputation as an injury-prone player behind him. Nonetheless, that last calculation takes a pretty pessimistic approach to Curry's future health by docking him 12 games per season.
A bolder guess could include more games per year, but more importantly, more than 10 additional seasons in Curry's career.
Great shooters can hang on longer than most other players, as their lone skill doesn't deteriorate when athleticism departs. Allen has lasted into his 17th season, and if used correctly, he could hang around for a few more. That's bad news for Curry in one sense, as it will push the record for all-time makes further away from him. But it also shows how long his own career might ultimately be.
That's good news for Curry, because based on percentage (Curry's mark of 44.6 percent ranks second only to Kerr's 45.4 percent) and his per-game average of made threes, the only thing keeping him from surpassing Allen is time.
If he can stick around for a total of 15 or 16 seasons while maintaining good health and near-career-average production, Curry has a terrific shot to make at least 3,000 triples and come close to catching whatever figure Allen ultimately retires with.
But if he has a few more seasons like this one, Curry could coast through the final years of his career and still shoot his way right past Allen and into position as the greatest three-point marksman in NBA history.
*All stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
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