Can Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson Be NBA's Best Shooting Backcourt Ever?
Some teams might be ill-equipped to defend behind the three-point line in general. Others just don't understand the concept of defense at all (looking at you Dallas). Mostly, Curry and Thompson, a pair of baby-faced assassins who won't stop shooting, can't be stopped.
They combined for over 14 three-point attempts per game in 2012-13. That's a lot. More than a lot. For some additional perspective, consider the Memphis Grizzlies jacked up just 13.5 per game as a team (whoa). This season, they're already letting 14.7 threes rip per game, accounting for exactly 58.8 percent of Golden State's total long-ball attempts (whoa, again).
Ungoverned trigger fingers have helped make them great. That is to say, they're both shooting above 40 percent from deep for their career. Curry himself is converting nearly 45 percent of his outside attempts.
"I've watched the history of the game and as player, as a fan, as an announcer, as a young kid and I've not ever seen two guys in the same backcourt shoot as well as these two guys," Jackson said.
Really? The best shooting backcourt ever?
Few players, if any, have achieved the level of individual downtown greatness that Thompson and Curry have.
Through his first four NBA seasons, Curry drained more treys (644) than anyone else in NBA history during that same span of their career. His 44.6 percent conversion rate also ranks first among those who attempted at least 800 deep balls through their first four years.
Last year, Curry set a new NBA record for three-pointers made in a season (272), surpassing Ray Allen's previous benchmark of 269. He also became the eighth player in league history to drill at least 45 percent of his threes over an entire season while attempting more than 200 of them. Of the other seven—Allen, Mitch Richmond, Peja Stojakovic, Damon Jones, Glen Rice, Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis—he was the youngest to accomplish the feat.
More quietly, Splash Brother No. 2 has put together just as impressive a start to his career.
Of all players who jacked up at least 500 long balls through their first two seasons, Thompson's 40.6 percent clip ranks fifth; Curry's 43.9 ranks first.
Finally, take a look at how their career three-point clips compare to that of the league average since they've gone pro, per Hoopdata.com:
Individual success is there. Right there. Every season, Curry and Thompson have taken great strides toward distinguishing themselves from everyone else.
Best part is, they're doing so together. Becoming great, staying great, together.
Dominance In Sync
There have been great backcourts in the NBA before, some of which have even had the freedom to shoot just like Curry and Thompson have.
Back in April Pro Basketball Talk's Dan Feldman wrote that Curry and Thompson were one of 11 backcourts whose players averaged at least two threes made per game in the same season. Per Feldman, the first backcourt to do it was Dana Barros and Willie Burton of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1994-95.
Said trend has become more common in recent years, as the Portland Trail Blazers (Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews) and Brooklyn Nets (Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) also did the same last season. Three-point attempts have become a necessity in today's NBA, and with an increase in popularity, accurate shooters have become a prerequisite as well.
Three teams attempted at least 2,000 treys last season, tying 2008-09 for the most teams to jack up 2,000-plus bombs in a single season over the last 10 years. Naturally, as the thrill of a three-point shot has increased, shooters have become more talented.
But no one in recent memory has formed as deadly a pair as Golden State's Splash Brothers.
More than 500 three-pointers have been attempted 51 times in NBA history by 36 different players. Last season, both Curry and Thompson eclipsed the 500-attempts plateau, hoisting up 600 and 526, respectively.
Only two other times have a pair of teammates done the same in a single season. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker did so for the Boston Celtics in 2001-02, and Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson did so for the Warriors in 2007-08. In each of those instances, never have both players knocked down 40 percent or more of their attempts, making Curry and Thompson the first.
This is the kind of history they're achieving, they're making together. They're doing things with their jumpers that no two backcourt members have done before. That no two teammates have done before.
I get the need to consider backcourts prior to when the NBA adopted the long ball. Excluding them seems inhumane. Personally, I don't care. The three-point shot wasn't a measured statistic then, which can't be held against shooters of today.
“Well, I humbling submit to you that I’ve seen Jerry West and Gail Goodrich and it’s no disrespect to them,” Jackson said, via Bonagura. “I was a guy that’s not guessing. Those were two good shooters. I’m dealing with two great shooters. I’m talking about great.”
There's that, too. The fact that Curry and Thompson are just better.
Step away from the three-point attempts for a minute. Shooting is more than deep balls. Much more.
Shooting is everything—floaters, free throws, mid-range twos, long twos. And Curry and Thompson can do everything.
Curry and Thompson are currently two of only 84 players in NBA history to average at least 13 field-goal attempts per game and maintain true shooting percentages of 54 or better. Of those 84, only 31 are classified as "guards," meaning Curry and Thompson account for more than six percent of that list.
A little over two years into their tenure together, Curry and Thompson are great. They're great separately and alongside one another.
They're one of the best. Perhaps the best we've ever seen.
Unparalleled and Still Shooting
Forget my "perhaps," Curry and Thompson are the most deadly shooting backcourt the NBA has ever had, bar none.
Stats aren't going to tell the whole story, especially this early into their careers. The two have combined to play six seasons in the league, just about a third of what Allen has played (17) himself.
But that should scare us. Really, really scare us.
Fluke isn't a word I like to use when two young guns are already making history, one 25-foot projectile at a time. It's clear they're already the most lethal-shooting backcourt in the game, and it's not even close.
Three players sent 500 or more threes toward the rim last season; Curry and Thompson were two of them. Two players nailed 200 or more last year; Curry and Thompson were both of them. Case rested.
Historically, there will always be so-called purists who refuse to admit that present-day stars are as great as former legends, prepared to nullify what certain players do now because things were different back then.
Will Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson go down as the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history?
Things change, though. That's what happens. The NBA instituted the three-point shot in 1979. That happened. Since then and before then, there have been thickets of talented shooters and unbelievably efficient backcourts.
Never before has there been a pair of torpedo-firing guards like Curry and Thompson playing together. Coming from someone who hasn't been around as long as Dick Van Dyke's haircut, that may not mean much. But I'm merely reciting what Jackson said. What Jackson knows.
Can Curry and Thompson be the NBA's best shooting backcourt of all time? Without a doubt.
That is, if they aren't already.
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