Ranking the Best 'Pure Shooters' in the NBA for 2013-14 Season
When one of these NBA players lets the ball fly, you can typically close your eyes and wait to hear the sweet sound of a spherical object swishing through the net.
Is anything sweeter?
Not for these guys, as they're the best pure shooters in the NBA.
There's a big difference between being one of the best shooters and one of the premier scorers, as you'll find out on the next slide. To account for the discrepancy, I'm using an original metric to rank all of the NBA's qualified shooters.
It's important to approach this objectively, as differentiating between some of the top marksmen in the Association would otherwise be impossible. Because of that, it's worth noting that there is no opinion in the rankings that follow, nor does anything matter but the numbers from the 2013-14 campaign. Reputations are irrelevant.
Shooting a basketball is a difficult craft to excel at, but it's tough to call any of these guys anything other than masters.
How Was Pure Shooting Calculated?
How shots are created doesn't matter, nor does the team's offensive rebounding or anything of that ilk. It's just about the percentage of the time that a player can put the ball in the basket.
A basketball court can be split up into multiple areas, as sites like NBA.com have done. Those zones are as follows: the restricted area, in the paint but outside of the restricted area, mid-range, corner three-pointers and above-the-break three-pointers.
Each of the zones also has an average field-goal percentage based upon all the shots taken by NBA players over the course of the 2013-14 campaign. Those averages are as follows, according to my calculations and the databases at NBA.com:
- Restricted area: 59.9 percent
- Paint, non-restricted area: 38.74 percent
- Mid-range: 39.03 percent
- Corner three-pointers: 39.78 percent
- Above-the-break three-pointers: 35.16 percent
The metric known as "pure shooting" is derived from those zones. It's split up into multiple components, and each component score is calculated by finding the difference between the player's field-goal percentage from the zone in question and the average value (so that a positive score represents a better-than-average performance), then by multiplying that difference by the number of attempts per game from the area.
However, there are a few wrinkles.
Scoring in the restricted area isn't factored into the equation. While shots there are technically, well, shots, they aren't what we've come to think of as pure shooting. That involves more than just layups and dunks, so rim attempts don't matter.
Additionally, the three-point components receive a multiplier of 1.5 to account for the fact that a three-pointer is worth 1.5 times more than a two-pointer. For the purposes of justification, consider the following hypothetical.
- Player A takes 10 shots from three-point range and 10 shots from three to nine feet. He makes 49.9 percent of the closer shots (10 percent above the average) and 55.9 percent of the further ones (20 percent above the average).
- Player B takes 10 shots from three-point range and 10 shots from three to nine feet. He makes 59.9 percent of the closer shots (20 percent above the average) and 45.9 percent of the further ones (10 percent above the average).
If there were no multiplier, the players would receive the same pure shooting score. But that's illogical. Player A is clearly the superior shooter because he's providing more points for his team with the same number of attempts, even though he's the same total percentage above average.
I calculated pure scoring for 160 players' 2013-14 campaigns by adding up all of these components. In order to qualify for the rankings, a player had to be on the court for at least 24 minutes per game (half the length of a typical game, as it's necessary to play in order to make enough of a shooting impact to matter) and suit up in at least 10 contests.
These rankings show the best of the best, and, just for your added edification, you'll also see the individual component scores for each player.
Note No. 1: This text is a modified version of what originally appeared here.
Note No. 2: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference. They're current as of Dec. 7.
20. Trevor Ariza: 57.19 Pure Shooting
Team: Washington Wizards
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: -34.7
Corner Three Value: 95.9
Mid-Range Value: -4.5
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 0.5
Trevor Ariza isn't doing many positive things for the Washington Wizards, but the positivity he does bring to the table just trumps everything else.
The small forward has been on fire from the corners, allowing him to completely negate the negative value he's provided on mid-range attempts and from above the break. Plus he's taken only five attempts in the paint that weren't in the restricted area, so that might as well not matter.
But on corner threes...oh boy.
Ariza has taken 52 attempts (almost four per game), and he's hitting on a sensational 55.8 percent of them. That's allowed him to boast more value from the corners than any player in the NBA, and it single-handedly earns him a spot in the top 20.
Worst of the Qualified Players: Josh Smith (minus-111.74), Tyreke Evans (minus-95.87), Tony Wroten (minus-90.41)
19. Channing Frye: 58.68
Team: Phoenix Suns
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 38.9
Corner Three Value: -10.9
Mid-Range Value: 3.8
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 26.8
Channing Frye has been unleashed.
Averaging 4.5 attempts per game from beyond the arc, the sweet-shooting big man is knocking down 39.3 percent of those looks. The majority come from the wings and right at the top of the key, as Frye is strangely inept when he's below the break.
Maybe he feels cramped in the corners.
A man of extremes, Frye also thrives in the paint, where he's shown off a stellar touch throughout the 2013-14 campaign. That's what has been different from the more unsuccessful campaigns in his past, and it's one of the many elements that have helped the Phoenix Suns exceed expectations.
If he can up the 27.3 percent shooting from the corners, he could potentially move all the way into the top 10.
18. Chandler Parsons: 61.09
Team: Houston Rockets
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 12.5
Corner Three Value: 7.0
Mid-Range Value: 10.3
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 31.3
If you're a basketball purist, you have to love the way Chandler Parsons goes about scoring.
He knows where the most efficient areas on the court are, and he sticks to them whenever possible. That's why there are large clumps of attempts from beyond the arc and in the paint on his shot chart. On top of that, he's great at both those shots.
Parsons can finish through and around contact, and he has a sweet stroke that seems to get more fluid every year he spends with the Houston Rockets.
As for his mid-range game, he's made 46.2 percent of his attempts, but only because he always spurns those looks for other opportunities. He's taken just 26 shots there all year, and I'd wager that the vast majority of them were either wide open or right at the end of the shot clock.
17. LeBron James: 61.65
Team: LeBron James
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 29.4
Corner Three Value: 19.1
Mid-Range Value: -9.0
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 22.2
Hey, remember when LeBron James didn't have a jumper?
So much for that.
The reigning MVP has gotten even better when pulling up away from the basket, and that's resulted in some stellar shooting from downtown. He's still struggling on his mid-range attempts, but how much more do you want from this guy?
It's also worth noting that LeBron is only at No. 17 because we aren't including value at the rim. No player has been more valuable in that area than King James, and he'd actually rank No. 1 if it were included in the overall rankings.
After all, he's earned 123.8 value points in the restricted area, and Andre Drummond is the only other player in the NBA on the right side of 50. That's how dominant LeBron is when he attacks the hoop due to an unmatched level of volume and efficiency.
16. Khris Middleton: 64.27
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 34.2
Corner Three Value: 27.0
Mid-Range Value: 3.0
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 0.1
Here's your surprise player in the rankings.
Khris Middleton is a second-year swingman out of Texas A&M who was drafted by the Detroit Pistons, and he's already playing for his second team. If you haven't heard of him, I don't blame you. Who would voluntarily subject themselves to the torture that is Milwaukee Bucks basketball?
But ever since he started replacing an injured Caron Butler, Middleton has been lighting up the scoreboard.
He's shooting 2.7 three-pointers per game and making half of them, which allows him to have quite a bit of value both above the break and in the corners. He's been remarkably average everywhere else, so don't think he's just a sharpshooter.
Middleton is shooting 38.89 percent from the non-restricted portion of the paint and 40 percent on his mid-range attempts. Remember, the average numbers from those areas are 38.74 and 39.03, respectively.
15. LaMarcus Aldridge: 68.66
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: -5.6
Corner Three Value: 0
Mid-Range Value: 56.0
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 18.2
Few players are more fun to watch than LaMarcus Aldridge when he starts hitting from mid-range.
The Portland Trail Blazers are perfectly content to feed him the ball on multiple possessions, and he just tortures defenses with his turnaround jumper. It's an unblockable shot, and defenses can barely get their hands into contesting position even though they know it's coming.
Aldridge has already taken 74 more mid-range attempts than anyone else in the league, and the gap is only going to continue to grow. But that's even more impressive, because he's still shooting 43.3 percent from the zone.
Not too shabby at all.
14. Jodie Meeks: 71.51
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 45.8
Corner Three Value: 37.2
Mid-Range Value: -12.2
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 0.7
Jodie Meeks is pretty much the exact opposite of LaMarcus Aldridge.
It's a terrible idea for this Los Angeles Lakers sharpshooter to ever step inside the three-point arc, but he's still become quite a valuable source of offense. Oh, and it helps that he's playing under Mike D'Antoni, who has made a career out of making players like him look good.
On his 64 attempts from above the break, Meeks is shooting 43.8 percent.
On his 29 attempts from the corners, he's shooting 55.2 percent.
That's quite the combination.
13. Brook Lopez: 73.79
Team: Brook Lopez
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 0
Corner Three Value: -5.0
Mid-Range Value: 20.3
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 58.5
Brook Lopez has missed his only three-point attempt of the season (he actually has yet to make one in his entire career), and he doesn't often stray far from the paint. But he's become such an efficient source of offense that it doesn't matter.
The No. 1 option on the Brooklyn Nets has shown off a developing mid-range jumper, and he continues to score in creative ways around the basket. When he's a handful of feet away from the hoop, he can hit jump-hooks, banks, floaters, face-up jumpers and anything else you can dream of.
And it all looks remarkably easy.
There's a reason that Brooklyn's top offensive play has become throwing the ball to BroLo and getting out of the way.
12. Jordan Crawford: 75.31
Team: Boston Celtics
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 6.4
Corner Three Value: 12.1
Mid-Range Value: 12.1
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 44.8
Apparently all Jordan Crawford needed was an opportunity.
Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics have given him one, and he's thrived as a combo guard, distributing the ball nicely and—for the first time in his career—scoring with efficiency.
Crawford had never shot better than 41.5 percent from the field, but now he's all the way up to 46.4. Additionally, he's stroking three-pointers more effectively than ever before, knocking down 40.2 percent of his attempts and spreading them around the entire arc.
But his biggest asset has to be his touch around the basket.
Crawford has a knack for getting bizarre-looking shots to fall when he's in the paint, going under bigger defenders or floating it over their outstretched arms. Only Brook Lopez has provided more value from the non-restricted portion of the paint.
11. Jose Calderon: 83.51
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 78.4
Corner Three Value: 16.3
Mid-Range Value: -9.1
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: -2.0
How many of you knew that Jose Calderon was a member of the 50/40/90 club?
He's probably the least glamorous of the members, but his 2007-08 campaign allowed him to gain entry. Too bad it won't happen again unless he can start hitting many more of his mid-range jumpers.
The Dallas Mavericks point guard is knocking down 88.9 percent of his free-throw attempts (which technically doesn't matter here) and 47.2 percent of his triples (the majority of which are coming above the break), but he's struggled inside the arc.
In fact, Calderon is making only 42 percent of his two-point attempts, which is both killing his 50/40/90 efforts and keeping him just barely out of the top 10.
10. Andrea Bargnani: 83.63
Team: New York Knicks
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: -3.9
Corner Three Value: -3.5
Mid-Range Value: 59.1
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 32.0
Andrea Bargnani was a punching bag before the season started, but he's actually been a somewhat valuable player for the Knicks. And that's all due to his jump-shooting, the skill that originally made him a No. 1 pick in 2006, which seems like forever ago.
From the mid-range zones, Bargnani has just been on fire. I'd say "en fuego," but "che brucia" seems more appropriate for the Italian big man.
He's hit over half of his mid-range attempts while taking quite a few of them each game. The result? A mid-range value of 59.1 that trails only Paul George, Stephen Curry and Dirk Nowitzki throughout the entire NBA.
Now, if only he could either start hitting his three-pointers or stop taking them.
9. Andre Iguodala: 96.19
Team: Golden State Warriors
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 62.3
Corner Three Value: 5.0
Mid-Range Value: 30.9
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: -2.0
This may seem a little strange, as Andre Iguodala has never been known as much of a shooter.
Instead, he typically draws compliments for the versatility of his offensive play and his stellar perimeter defense while dealing with criticisms of his free-throw and three-point shooting. But that wasn't the case before a hamstring injury knocked him out of the lineup.
Iggy thrived as a jump-shooter, both on pull-up attempts from inside and beyond the three-point arc.
In fact, he's taking a career-high 3.7 attempts per game from downtown while shooting 47.9 percent. It should almost go without saying that the latter is a career high as well, though it's likely not a sustainable number.
8. Paul George: 100.88
Team: Indiana Pacers
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: -24.1
Corner Three Value: 57.4
Mid-Range Value: 60.5
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 7.1
Cliche as it may be, Paul George has taken his game to another level during the 2013-14 campaign.
He's become a valuable scorer, averaging well over 20 points per contest and actually becoming a fringe contender for the scoring title. The reason? An improved jumper.
George is shooting a little over 40 percent from three-point range, and he's been sensational from the corners. Although he struggles when moving above the break, George has been outshone by only Trevor Ariza from the spot many label as the most efficient area of the court that isn't right at the rim.
Additionally, he's been sensational from mid-range.
George has begun to take some superstar shots, elevating in the middle of double teams to fire away. And more often than not, he's hitting the looks and reminding quite a few people of a certain Tracy McGrady.
7. Klay Thompson: 137.50
Team: Golden State Warriors
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 62.3
Corner Three Value: 51.4
Mid-Range Value: 19.8
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 4.0
Klay Thompson is the second member of the Golden State Warriors to appear in these rankings. Not to steal his thunder, but he certainly won't be the last.
This member of the Splash Brothers has one of the prettiest strokes in the NBA, and he often puts it to good use from downtown. No matter where he stands around the arc, he can find nothing but net once he fires away.
Few players are elite both above the break and from the corners, but Thompson certainly qualifies as such. In fact, he provides the fourth-most value from the corners and the sixth-most above the break.
That's quite the deadly combination, and it makes this Washington State product quite the deadly player.
6. Spencer Hawes: 140.81
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 115.9
Corner Three Value: 8.9
Mid-Range Value: 2.0
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 14.0
Spencer Hawes doesn't get enough credit for what he's done this season.
During the Philadelphia 76ers' surprisingly hot start to the 2013-14 campaign, it was Michael Carter-Williams, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young who drew all the headlines. But it's Spencer Hawes who has continued to light up the scoreboard from downtown.
Eighteen games into the season, Hawes is taking 4.2 triples per game and drilling 43.8 percent of them. Since he's done so much of his damage from his sweet spot on the left wing, he's produced so much above-the-break value that he trails only...no one in the category. He and Stephen Curry are actually the only guys to post triple-digit scores there.
Coming up at No. 1 in any of the four sections is a great recipe for holding down an elite spot in the rankings.
5. Dirk Nowitzki: 141.65
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 32.9
Corner Three Value: -6.0
Mid-Range Value: 82.5
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 32.2
Go ahead. Try to tell someone that Dirk Nowitzki is declining.
Hopefully that person responds by laughing at you, because nothing could be further from the truth.
The German seven-footer has continued to be one of the league's best mid-range players, just as he's been throughout his career. With the unblockable flamingo fadeaway at his disposal, Nowitzki has taken 178 mid-range attempts and made 48.3 percent of them.
It's tough to post one of the more impressive percentages while taking more attempts than anyone but LaMarcus Aldridge, but that's exactly what Dirk has done. And it's resulted in more mid-range value than anyone in the NBA.
Stephen Curry is the closest to Nowitzki in the category, and he's still 10 value points behind his Dallas-based competitor.
4. Stephen Curry: 150.15
Team: Golden State Warriors
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 110.0
Corner Three Value: -18.3
Mid-Range Value: 72.1
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: -13.6
Subjectively, Stephen Curry is the best pure shooter in the NBA. That's what happens when you possess one of the sweetest strokes ever and emerge as the premier three-point shooter in basketball.
But this is completely objective, and it's based solely on the results of the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for Curry, who has unnaturally struggled from the corners and can't knock down floaters in the paint.
He and Andrea Bargnani are the only two players in the top 10 to post negative values in two of the four categories, and he still finds himself at No. 4. That in itself is impressive, and it's the result of his No. 2 finish in both above-the-break triples and mid-range value.
Curry can flat-out stroke the ball, and he should continue ascending up the rankings as the season progresses, especially as the remaining trio inevitably falls back to Earth.
3. Wesley Matthews: 152.80
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 66.6
Corner Three Value: 54.4
Mid-Range Value: 17.8
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 13.9
Wesley Matthews has been one of the keys for the Portland Trail Blazers during their ridiculously hot start to the 2013-14 campaign. He just can't miss from downtown.
Despite taking 5.5 attempts per game, Matthews is drilling 50.9 percent of his triples. In NBA history, no one has ever matched or exceeded those numbers, so this particular shooting guard would become the first if he maintained his current pace.
He probably won't, but let's at least enjoy it while it lasts.
Fortunately for Rip City, Matthews' sheer offensive dominance goes beyond his work from downtown. He's also playing impressive offensive basketball when he gets inside the arc, as you can see based on his positive scores in all four categories.
2. Arron Afflalo: 155.40
Team: Orlando Magic
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 45.3
Corner Three Value: 38.9
Mid-Range Value: 57.4
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 13.8
It's almost like Arron Afflalo is trying to boost his trade value for the Orlando Magic or trying to guarantee that he has a spot on the team in the future, as he's been too valuable to give up for a cheap haul.
The shooting guard just can't seem to miss from anywhere on the court, and he has one of the rare shot charts that is green everywhere you look. But it's not like he's benefiting from limiting his shot selection.
Afflalo is averaging 22.1 points per game, so he's shooting the rock quite a bit from all areas of the court.
His ability to keep up this red-hot pace is questionable, much as is the case for Wesley Matthews, but he's finally becoming the offensive powerhouse that we thought he could be prior to his arrival in Orlando. It wasn't too long ago that this 28-year-old was thought of as a future great at the 2.
1. Kyle Korver: 161.82
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Above-the-Break Three-Point Value: 84.0
Corner Three Value: 43.8
Mid-Range Value: 25.0
Paint, Non-Restricted Area Value: 9.1
It's only fair that the NBA's new record holder for consecutive games making at least one three-pointer gets the No. 1 spot. But that's not why Kyle Korver is leading the NBA in the pure-shooting rankings; it's because he's provided more value with his shot than any other player in the NBA.
There are no negative areas for the Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter, and he's just been unstoppable from beyond the arc.
Shooting 5.2 three-pointers per game, Korver is draining 52.3 percent of them. Few defenders can stick with him as he weaves through defenses, using off-ball screen after off-ball screen to free himself. And once he gets even a little bit of room...bottoms.
The Hawks haven't been fun to watch in previous years thanks to Larry Drew's stagnant and stale offensive systems. But things are different under Mike Budenholzer, who is helping Korver become even more of a master at his craft.
Tune in and keep your eyes on the Ashton Kutcher lookalike. You won't regret doing so.