Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry: The Splash Brothers
Making shots wins games. That may seem obvious, but as Bill Russell tells Uncle Drew in that Pepsi commercial, "This game has always been, and always will be, about buckets."
If you can shoot, you can win.
It's that simple.
Nowadays, everybody talks about stretch 4s, but the league's best long-range bombers are still usually guards. The shorter you are, the more likely you are to learn to say "forget trying to score over these trees inside, I'll just make it from way back here."
Still, it remains rare to have two great shooters in a single backcourt.
Most have one; few have two.
The following backcourts are the exception.
In 2004-05, Mo Williams shot just 32.3 percent from deep but connected on 45.6 percent of his twos.
Michael Redd struggled a little bit behind the arc as well, hitting just 104 of 293 (35.5 percent) three-point attempts on the season. He, too, knocked down his twos at good rate, however, making 46.3 percent.
Given this, and what we know about these two players' careers, I'm going to hypothesize that Terry Porter's offensive system in Milwaukee simply could not generate good three-point looks. They finished 17th in the NBA that season in three-point percentage but ranked 25th in attempts.
This seems foolish, since Redd was a career 38.0 percent three-point shooter. The two seasons he spent under Porter were the only two before he blew out his knee that he shot below 36 percent from deep. Moreover, during the two years before Porter, when Redd played for George Karl, he hit about 44 percent of his threes.
Something doesn't compute.
Williams, meanwhile, is a career 38.6 percent three-point shooter. And the year after his career-low percentage under Porter, he shot 38.2 percent under Terry Stotts.
Terry Porter was the problem here.
On top of being excellent shooters, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been the best backcourt of the past decade.
Though Ginobili moved mainly to a bench role in 2006, he and Parker have always been the team's closing duo. When the game is on the line, these two marksmen are who Gregg Popovich gives the ball to.
Manu's three-point percentages speak for themselves: three seasons above 39.5 percent and an unbelievable 43.8 percent during the playoffs in 2005 as his shooting helped lift San Antonio to win its third ring.
Parker has never been a good shooter from that far out. He took—and missed—a lot of three-pointers early in his career, but he eventually realized his limitations and moved to the mid-range.
That is where he has thrived.
He is one of the last mid-range assassins from the guard position, and few are deadlier in the pull-up game while leading the pick-and-roll.
This season, Parker shot 45.9 percent from 16 to 24 feet, which was 10th best in the NBA among players with at least 200 attempts, according to NBA.com/Stats.
Teammates turned rivals.
Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" teams in Phoenix revolutionized the sport. Before then, some teams—usually fundamentally flawed teams—shot a ton of three-pointers.
Now? Almost all the good ones do.
D'Antoni's spread-out offense that used Steve Nash's impeccable understanding of space was remarkable.
With a shooter in the corner and two spaced out around the arc, Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire would adroitly run the pick and roll. The defense would have to pick its poison: let Stoudemire roll unguarded to the rim or give Nash enough room to pull up with his quick-release jumper.
On the rare occasion that a defense could thwart that attack without a third defender, Nash would dribble into an area where someone had to help guard him.
That's when it was all over.
Nash would dish to the open man and threes would rain.
It may have been due to the system that Joe Johnson was able to make so many threes, but make them he did. In 2004-05, Johnson hit more than two triples per game at a ridiculous 47.8 percent clip.
Nash didn't shoot quite as many, "only" hitting 94 of his 218 attempts on the year, but that was good for a highly accurate 43.1 percent clip.
Unfortunately, Johnson would leave to run his own team the following season. But his good-shooting ways continued for a time after he moved to the Atlanta Hawks. He wasn't as prolific as he proved to be in Phoenix, but he knocked down more than 38 percent of this long-range shots in two of his first three seasons in Atlanta.
The guy could shoot no matter the system. His percentages may have dropped after the Hawks decided to lean way too heavily on an "Iso Joe" offense, but his ability to hit open jumpers was never the problem.
As for Nash, well, he has since entered the conversation as the best shooter in NBA history.
Jerry West, Larry Bird and Reggie Miller may have some arguments, but there is no denying that Nash's name belongs alongside those Hall of Famers.
Richard Hamilton was seen as the second coming of Reggie Miller when it came to expertise running off picks.
Like the Indiana Pacers did throughout the early and mid-1990s, the Detroit Pistons would run Hamilton through a maze of screens to free him for an open mid-range jumper.
He knocked them down with uncanny consistency, while also mixing in a heavy dose of curl cuts that got him moving toward the basket for an even closer look or a dump off to one of his bigs.
At the other guard spot was Mr. Big Shot himself.
Chauncey Billups earned that nickname for his play late in the games during the playoffs. But he was no slouch during meaningless regular-season games during the second quarter in Milwaukee either.
Only once during his five full seasons as a Piston did he shoot below 38.8 percent from three-point range.
During his team's first-round series, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson called The Splash Brothers the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, according to Monte Poole of the San Jose Mercury News.
Jackson is a serial hyperbole abuser, but in this instance, he might not be wrong.
Stephen Curry is the best shooter in the NBA right now. Let's just get that out of the way. Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are incredible. But Curry is better.
This is indisputable.
Evidence: He has made 644 of the 1,443 three-pointers he has taken as a pro.
That is a make rate of 44.6 percent. Which is insane.
Klay Thompson isn't Curry. But he did make 40.1 percent of his triples this season, and he has upped that to 41.8 percent in the playoffs—largely on the strength of his incredible 8-for-9 long-range performance in his team's win in Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs.
You know, the more I think about it, the more I think that Jackson is right.
This is probably the best shooting backcourt ever.