The Best NBA Shooters Who Need More Attention
The NBA is a skill game, and shooting has taken on such added importance over the years. The best shooters are well-known. Names such as Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant strike fear in defenses.
But there is a crop of largely uncelebrated shooters coming into the league. These are the guys you do not think of on a regular basis but somehow the ball finds their hands at the most opportune times.
They get the open looks because defenses are keyed in on their teammates.
To be included, players have to average at least three triples per game and play a legitimate role for their team—not just be a garbage-time player.
Names such as Curry and Fred VanVleet will not make the list; we know they can shoot. Even guys like Buddy Hield were excluded because they came into this league as shooting specialists. Grant Williams had his coming-out party as a shooter in Game 7 against the Bucks, so he's not included either.
Some of the names below will become more well-known if they succeed in their roles and continue knocking down looks. Some of these players are on fire to start the year.
But these shooters should be on your radar, especially if your team will play them anytime soon.
A couple of guys narrowly missed the list because of health and playing time.
The Phoenix Suns' Cameron Johnson stepped into a starting role this season and delivered. He was shooting 43.1 percent from deep before suffering a meniscus injury that could keep him out into January, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
Warriors two-way player Anthony Lamb has moved into the rotation and has done nothing but hit shots. He's shooting 44.8 percent from three on 3.6 attempts in 20.3 minutes per game. He would have gotten his own section but has only appeared in eight games this season.
Keep an eye out throughout the season for these shooters; they are fully capable of hitting a dagger.
Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans
There may not be another second-year player as red-hot as Trey Murphy III has been to start the season. The 17th pick in 2021 is shooting a scorching 42.9 percent from three on 5.3 attempts per game.
It is easy to overlook him—the New Orleans Pelicans are stacked. In addition to big names such as Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, the Pels' depth is earning rave reviews thanks to Herbert Jones, Jonas Valančiūnas and Jose Alvarado. And then there’s Murphy, who against the Dallas Mavericks in late October went a perfect 8-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 from three.
His evolution into a 40 percent three-point shooter for the season shouldn't be surprising as he shot 38.2 percent as a rookie.
Sam Hauser, Boston Celtics
Sam Hauser might be the best pure shooter on the Boston Celtics.
He never shot lower than 40 percent for a season in college and was a career 43.9 percent three-point shooter. In the 10 games he spent in the G League last season, he shot 43.3 percent from three on nine attempts per contest. In limited time in the NBA last season, the 24-year-old shot 43.2 percent from deep.
This season he’s connecting on 47.9 percent of his threes. He is doing that on 4.6 attempts per night while getting 16.7 minutes. If Hauser is in the game, he is going to get shots up—and they are probably going in.
Luke Kennard, Los Angeles Clippers
Forget being the best unknown shooter on a team—Luke Kennard is the best unknown shooter in Los Angeles and maybe even the entire league. Just last season he shot a career-high (and league-leading) 44.9 percent on six three-point attempts per game, which pushed his career percentage to 42.5 percent.
Expect his attempts to go down a bit this season as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard gobble up more minutes. That said, he will get more open looks when on the floor with them and/or a distributor such as John Wall. Even in this early season, he has already connected on 47.9 percent of his 3.4 three-point attempts per game.
Kennard is doing more off the dribble and attacking hard closeouts. The shooting threat he provides will go a long way for the Clippers and their championship aspirations.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
Last season was the leap year for Desmond Bane, but not many people noticed because we were all in awe (as we should have been) of Ja Morant's evolution.
Bane has been the Memphis Grizzlies' second-best player since last year, sometimes their best player. He posted a run of three straight 30-point games earlier this season, one on national TV.
But shooting got him drafted, and in two full seasons in the NBA, he has never shot lower than 43 percent from three. The third-year player is shooting 45.1 percent from deep on more than 8.5 attempts per game.
Bane is more than a spot-up shooter, as he's nailing 47.3 percent of his dribble pull-up threes.
The Grizzlies will be on national TV several times this season, and trust me: Pay attention to Bane.
Kevin Huerter, Sacramento Kings
As Trae Young's running mate with the Atlanta Hawks, Kevin Huerter shot 37.9 percent from three in four seasons. Now with the Sacramento Kings, he is shooting better than ever. On 7.1 attempts per game, he has made 51.0 percent of them.
The 24-year-old is owning shots designated as "open" by NBA.com (closest defender within 4 to 6 feet), shooting 55.1 percent on 3.5 such attempts per night. It is highly unlikely he'll keep hitting at that pace, but after he started so well, there is no reason he cannot have his best shooting season.
The Kings are riding high in part because of Huerter's hot shooting, having gone 8-2 after starting 0-4, as he's hit 53.5 percent from deep during the most recent stretch. He is getting more usage in Sacramento than Atlanta, and it is paying dividends for the Kings.
Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers
When the Cleveland Cavaliers gave Dean Wade a three-year, $18.5 million extension before the season, many fans asked: Who?
Wade has already shown why he got that contract, shooting an incredible 50 percent from deep this season.
He’s not going to be a high-usage player, as teams must account for Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. That means Wade will get a lot of open looks. He has to make the defenses pay.
He has so far, as the majority of his looks so far this season have been open to wide-open threes (closest defender stands 6-plus feet away on the latter). He's hit at a 66.7 percent clip on his wide-open attempts.
No one expects Wade to shoot above 50 percent from three for the season, but if he can hover around 40 percent, that contract extension will look like an absolute bargain for the Cavs.
Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs
Be honest: You did not watch the San Antonio Spurs over the past few years. Given that, you might not have learned who Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are. But after a few recent trades, they have become the faces of the team.
Let's start with the 23-year-old Johnson, who has started the season on an incredible hot streak. He leads the Spurs in scoring with 22.7 points per game, and a large reason for that is his 42.3 percent three-point shooting. Johnson is also attempting 8.8 threes per night, a big jump from last season when he was trying 5.3.
Johnson is more than just a shooter; he is a scorer, which is why the Spurs gave him a four-year, $74 million extension.
The Kentucky product is not the only Spur to be lighting up the nets from long range. Vassell's been slinging fireballs at a 42.2 percent clip on 7.5 attempts per game. He does the most of his damage as a catch-and-shoot gunner at 44.3 percent.
Vassell's three-point shooting has improved each year he has been in the league to the point he demands the opponent's attention.
Malik Beasley, Utah Jazz
To some, Malik Beasley might have been just a throw-in the Rudy Gobert trade, but he has been a huge part of the Utah Jazz's hot start. Beasley is shooting a career-high 43.0 percent from deep on 7.1 attempts. That is not a surprise, as he is a career 38.9 percent shooter from deep, but he has done so rather quietly.
Beasley has done a great job of coming off the bench in Utah and providing a spark. The majority of his threes are coming in catch-and-shoot situations, where he is cashing in on 46.8 percent of those attempts.
Utah has stumbled a bit of late after a 10-3 start, but none of that has to do with Beasley's shooting. In the Jazz's last three losses heading into Saturday, he hit 11 combined threes. He is an unassuming three-point threat who teams will need to make sure they rotate to.
Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets
Bones Hyland is off to a blistering start from deep in his second NBA season. His role as a punch off the bench is aided by his 46.6 percent shooting from three on 6.6 attempts. That is probably not sustainable, especially since he shot 36.6 percent from deep during his rookie season.
But in his two years at VCU, Hyland averaged 39.9 percent from three-point land. It is a big reason the Denver Nuggets drafted him.
Going deeper into Hyland's numbers, it is clear the young man can flat-out shoot. The 22-year-old can spot up behind the arc and drop in 48.4 percent of those attempts, but he can also be a knockdown threat off the dribble at a 46.2 percent clip.
Hyland can play off Jamal Murray to attack the second side, or they can put him on the floor with Nikola Jokić, who can find him as teams try to double the two-time MVP.
If the Nuggets are going to fulfill their big expectations, Hyland will need to hit on about 40 percent of his threes to give his teammates a lot of space on the floor.
Georges Niang, Philadelphia 76ers
Spacing is extremely important to the Philadelphia 76ers with superstar big man Joel Embiid on the floor. Georges Niang provides just that. He is shooting a career-high 45.3 percent from three this season, but taking out his first two seasons (which spanned 32 games and 16 attempts), he hasn't shot lower than 43.7 percent from deep.
Niang's shooting makes it difficult for defenses to double Embiid or just send an extra defender to clog the paint for their drivers. He is strictly a spot-up shooter, which limits what he can do when teams close out on him. However, if they are slow to rotate to him, he'll make them pay.
Defenses will have to respect the threat Niang presents. He is averaging 18.9 minutes per game and attempting 5.0 threes.